South Africa rising
Playing with Geva Mentor at Lightning was a special time for me.
At the 2011 World Cup in Singapore, I wasn’t in the team, I was just a travelling player. I can remember the England team and specifically Geva, the tall girl with the braided hair.
If anybody in the netball world would ask me, ‘Who’s your role model, or what netball player inspires you the most?’, I would always say Geva.
Never had I thought I’d play alongside her, so I was a bit starstruck, but Geva’s so easy-going and that’s why it worked well in the circle. We’d go with the flow and take it from there. She brought out the best in me and I’ll be forever be thankful for her contribution to my play and growth. I learnt so much from her.
The next year when I started working, I used to get up at 4.30am to be at training by 5am. I’d clock in at my job at 7am, get back from work and go straight to training again.
It was incredible to win the grand final in that first year and be named MVP. I remember we stood next to the court and we were joking with Laura Langman, ‘Oh, you’re going to go up there’. I wasn’t imagining I’d ever get it.
That photo with the whole team around me sums it up; the respect we all had for each other and how great the team was. On that day, it could have gone to anyone, but I felt real proud as a South African, not just representing myself, but representing my family and country.
I hope more South Africans believe we can play in these prestigious leagues or, even better, create our own professional league. That’s what we desperately need to compete against the top countries.
The skills and abilities of South African players shouldn’t be underestimated. They’ve shown internationally that there are many players back home who can be competitive in this environment.
We need to make the best of hosting the 2023 World Cup in Cape Town. It’s an opportunity to get formal structures in place and have a competitive and professional national league. It’s also an opportunity to create pathways to improve development of the sport in rural areas.
Netball is the biggest female sport in South Africa, but we’re not even close to the male sports when compared to funding. I trust that the World Cup will increase awareness of the sport and attract much needed investment, in capital and management.
We need to make netball in South Africa more competitive and more appealing for players, so we don’t see so many players leaving to join clubs abroad. It’s not that we don’t want to compete at home; we just have no choice when there are not similar opportunities as there are abroad.
Trust what we do
Last year, when Lighting lost our first three games, we could easily have lost faith. But we didn’t panic. We trusted in what we were doing.
Getting to that second grand final was almost more special than the first season, because the journey was a bit more difficult; there were more challenges.
It was also special that we were in Perth. There were close to 15,000 supporters in the RAC Arena and only probably 150 Sunshine Coast supporters, but we drew so much energy from them.
Returning to Perth this weekend is going to bring back fond memories. But it’s also about knowing that it’s a new season, a new journey, and the work needs to be done.
I’m vice-captain of the Lightning now, and vice-captain of the Proteas. It’s what this type of environment does to you: you can’t go home not being a better player, a better leader, a better person.
I’ve grown over the past two years. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, so I’m going to keep on being me and lead the best way I can.
I’m not a big talker or public speaker, and I think ‘Lauz’ is like that as well – we’ll just work together on the words. At the right time, they will come! There are so many leaders within our team and anybody speaks up at any time.
Obviously, Geva, Caitlin and Kelsey leaving has shifted some attention away from us this season and I think it’s a favourable position to be in.
We’re just going to trust in what we do, the group we have and enjoy it. Our new players bring new skills, laughs and belief to our team. I know we can go all the way.