THE second week of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) signings has already seen a heap of massive names re-sign and some intriguing ones bid farewell to their 2021 clubs, with the ninth official day of the free agency period marking some huge mix-ups.
The first announcement of the day saw the GIANTS confirm that Kiera Austin will not be continuing in the orange dress in 2022, with the Australian Diamonds goal attack looking to start fresh after rehabbing an anterior cruciate ligament injury this season and exploring other options in 2022. Coach Julie Fitzgerald said that she is sad to see Austin leave the club after coming up through the pathways as a junior and through the GIANTS training partner system, but thanked her for her contribution and bade good luck for the future.
“It is obviously disappointing to lose someone of Kiera’s ability and nature, but we respect her decision,” Fitzgerald said. “Kiera has come such a long way since she joined us as a training partner and is now regarded as one of Australia’s best shooters.
“She played a significant role both on our bench and within the team this season and she’s approached her rehab with diligence and professionalism. “We wish her well in her next venture.”
The talented goal attack was announced later to be the Melbourne Vixens’ seventh signing for the 2022 season, putting pen to paper and looking to start fresh in new club colours.
“I’m really looking forward to my next chapter with the Vixens and the opportunity that comes with a new club and city,” Austin said. “The Vixens have always been a strong team in the competition and with the results of the last couple of years, I know there’s something really special coming in 2022, and I’m excited to be a part of that.
“I do want to thank the GIANTS players and staff for their support of me over the last four years, particularly this year in my recovery. I have loved every minute of my time there and will be forever grateful for the opportunities the club has given me.”
The Adelaide Thunderbirds were next out of the blocks, re-signing talented young Jamaican Latanya Wilson for another two seasons. The versatile goal defence/wing defence impressed throughout her first season at SSN, gradually earning more court time as the season went on and showcasing her athleticism in the process. Adelaide Thunderbirds High Performance Manager, Pitre Bourdon is looking forward to seeing what Wilson can do in the next few years, with the 20-year-old showcasing a high ceiling for improvement.
“We know Latanya has an amazing X-factor about the way she plays and an innate ability to hunt down the ball,” Bourdon said. “She showed great signs in 2021 and we know she’ll only continue to grow going forward.
“She fit in with the playing group incredibly well and will be an asset for our side in 2022 and 23.”
Meanwhile, the Sunshine Coast Lightning have managed to lour exciting defender Tara Hinchliffe up the coast from the Queensland Firebirds, where the goal keeper/goal defence has held down a starting role since 2019. Hinchliffe explained that the Lightning team culture was a big grab for her, especially with the defender set to continue rehab following an injury to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the latter stages of the 2021 season, and also in part due to her twin sister Maddie, who pulled on the Lightning dress this year.
“I’m really excited for a new challenge, and to immerse myself within the Lightning team and culture,” Hinchliffe said. “It was obviously a tough decision, but the opportunity to play with, and learn from, new players with different skills and international experience was hard to turn down.
“The unique experience of my first ‘major’ injury gave me time to reflect on my four years with the Firebirds, and how I could reenergise myself and my netball and chatting to Kylee (Byrne) made me really excited about new possibilities up the Coast.
“I’ve also watched [my twin] Maddie thrive at Lightning – the way she talks about the culture, the girls, the coaches and performance staff, was a big reason why I chose to sign with this club.”
The Firebirds announced their fourth signing, with club stalwart and captain Gabi Simpson officially locked in for her ninth season in purple. Simpson said the decision was an easy one, with full belief in the squad currently being assembled as the Firebirds continue their way up the ladder.
“Since I first moved up when I was 20, the club has been my home, so now to be signing up for my tenth (national league) season here is extremely special,” Simpson said. “We’ve worked really hard this year and done a lot of groundwork to set a foundation that can put out really good performances, and I think what we learnt will be absolutely vital. “And this group, I have never seen a group more driven to get the success that we want for this club.”
Picture credit: IMAGO / AAP