THE GIANTS have hit the ground running during the first three rounds of the 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season, sitting pretty at the top of the ladder with all 12 possible points. Last week the team got to play their first home game at the new Ken Rosewall Arena against the Firebirds, something youngster and newcomer Sophie Dwyer had been looking forward to for some time.
“It was about over 600 days since we played in Sydney until our game last week. So yeah really privileged to be back in front of our fans at our new arena,” she said.
The 19-year-old was a part of the GIANTS extended squad last year that headed to the Queensland hub, and made her debut in the first round against the NSW Swifts, sinking a super shot in her first few minutes on the court. Despite only taking the court on two occasions last season, it was enough to impress coach Julie Fitzgerald, who offered her a contract for the 2021 season.
“Last year I was lucky enough to be part of the extended squad that went into the hub, so a lot of my time up there really benefitted me coming into the team quite easily I think.”
The GIANTS suffered a big blow very early in the season, with seasoned shooter Kiera Austin tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the first game, ruling her out for the rest of the 2021 season.
“We were obviously very devastated for Kiera, we will certainly miss her out on court, she was playing so amazing. She is such a strong, resilient athlete that we know she will approach rehab like a star and she has already had her surgery completed, so she is definitely going to be back bigger and better,” Dwyer said in relation to her teammate.
“I think for us [the team], we definitely have an extra incentive now to play for her as well.”
Despite not being able to play, Dwyer believes Austin will still be actively involved in the team.
“At this stage she is kind of just really focusing on her rehab, the early stages since surgery. But I think she will definitely come into maybe a mentoring role, especially for me in the shooting circle.”
Austins unexpected departure also means that fellow 2020 training partner Matisse Letherbarrow has been elevated to the main squad with the young goaler highly versatile in the sense she can swing between goal shooter and goal attack in a heartbeat.
“She was coming back from a bit of an injury over the off season but has just hit the court at 100 per cent, and definitely is slotting into the team really well,” Dwyer said.
The GIANTS have had a tough couple of years. During 2020, Fitzgerald was scrutinised for benching Australian Diamond’s captain Caitlin Bassett, which lead to Bassett wanting out of her contract and heading over the ditch to play for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in New Zealand. The GIANTS also missed out on a final spot last season.
But despite the outside noise of 2020, the focus still remains the same for the GIANTS with Dwyer highlighting that the main goal for this season is to make finals and give the premiership a real crack.
“Obviously the last couple of years we haven’t made finals, so we, I think, are really invested in playing our best netball that we know we can put out there and making finals and then obviously going for a premiership,” she said.
“I think for us it’s really just about taking that extra step in training, and we really are expecting a lot of each other to hopefully get that premiership in the end.”
For Dwyer personally, the aim is just to show people what she can do given that she is only in her first official year at SSN level and is still developing her craft.
“I think now that I do have more of an opportunity to be on court more than I would have first expected, I think my main goal is just to show that I can produce a high level of netball and play in this competition.”