Supershots and snotty noses were just a few of the challenges NAT MEDHURST confronted on the Gold Coast last weekend.
On the final day of the Team Girls Cup, I went for a morning trip to Surfers Paradise for a swim and quality time with the family. It was here that Sam, my husband, turned to me and said, ‘This could be the last time that you play.’
As confronting as it was to hear that said out loud, I knew it was true.
Nothing is a given when you’re a training partner knocking on the door of 40.
I assume my context and thought process is quite different to that of the Cransberg twins and most other, much younger training partners, who feel they have all the time in the world and endless opportunities ahead. I know that is not the case for me.
Returning to the court for what is, in some ways, a second chance – and with a whole new life around me – it is amazing how much freer and easier things feel. Whereas many rightly think that juggling kids, work and netball is chaotic and hard work, they don’t see how playing at this stage of my life comes with a big release from the things that used to grate me in my younger days.
The noise that used to fill so much of the space and sap so much of my energy is gone. There is no time for that with kids. I need to pick the main thing to worry about and truly forget about the rest.
I have needed to focus on the key things to improve because I have had catching up to do.
And when I step off that court, it is straight into mum, family and/or work mode.
It is wiping snot and food off my 10 month old and giving cuddles. It is dealing with tantrums and celebrating when our eldest finally managed to do a poo on the toilet (that actually happened over the weekend). It is getting bags ready for childcare, completing my work at the WACA and organising dinner and babysitters.
These are the things that fill the space now.
They inspire and motivate me every day. And while no time away from my family is ever fully worth it, it needs to matter and have a positive impact.
Athletes frequently say that we don’t take things for granted.
The reality is that we do.
I can now see that I did. It didn’t mean that I trained any less hard or didn’t care if we won or lost – quite the opposite, in fact – but you do tend to just float on through in your own world. When we are in it, when we are going through our day-to-day routines in our bubble, we feel invincible.
Few players at their peak stop to think that this will all be over one day.
I have seen both sides of this now. I have lived the life of a young, focused athlete and I have experienced retirement. And now I get to see the former with the perspective of the latter. It might seem such a mindset carries weight and pressure – and maybe it does – but it also brings enjoyment and the realisation that I need to embrace whatever may, or may not, come my way.
After being informed I was going to the Gold Coast, alongside fellow West Coast Fever training partners Jordan and Zoe Cransberg, it was made clear by our head coach, Dan Ryan, that we would see a good amount of court time due to the workload management of contracted players. It was music to my ears. The opportunity to play again has been a driving force behind this ‘comeback’.
I love competing. Always have. And while there were no doubt questions around my ability to keep up with younger players – and not be out of my depth – after three years on the sideline, I knew before stepping on court that my white line fever had never left me and was a big reason why I wanted to play at this level again.
With Sam and two kids in tow, it was a full family affair on the Gold Coast. But rather than visiting theme parks and learning to surf, it was round trips to the netball courts and hotel room, not to mention a stinky nappy or two during team meetings.
There were nerves before the first match against the Sunshine Coast Lightning. They say nerves mean you care and that I did. But I was also unsure about what I would produce out there. I was definitely a bit rigid and not backing myself like a normally would. I could feel myself overthinking the strategies and set-ups rather than playing off instinct, being a threat and getting the ball in my hands.
Having a few cobwebs was in some ways inevitable, but also a little frustrating. I was always hard on myself as a player the first time around. That hasn’t changed now.
Aside from a dusty start to the weekend, I was pretty happy with what I put out on court over all. It wasn’t only my personal game but also the ability to build on a combination with that of shooter Sasha Glasgow.
If my last shot of the tournament was anything to go by, I would like to say my weekend was a result of pure skill rather than an absolute fluke … I hope!
A VERY DIFFERENT WEEKEND
Every team went into the Team Girls Cup with an agenda and a clear plan for what they wanted to achieve.
Situations. Combinations. Weaknesses and strengths that need fine tuning in the weeks before the real stuff starts. Still, irrespective of who or what is thrown out there, teams still want to win. And they want to know that they are heading in the right direction ahead of Suncorp Super Netball.
Fever, I would say, achieved what they wanted (aside from a couple of injuries).
As for me? It was definitely about testing where I was against the best of the best and being able to implement the strategies that the team had been working on. Many of these are executed with ease by the pre-existing players in the squad, but for me it was all new and foreign.
And then there was the supershot.
While the physical nature of the game hasn’t changed since I last played, the tactical element of the two-point shot is most certainly a key factor for teams and how they play it from both an attacking and defensive perspective.
Getting through the weekend doesn’t change my position as a training partner, but it has confirmed my view that I am doing the right thing in coming back.
To be a part of a team again.
To put myself in the best possible position to play and compete again.
It is a pretty good feeling.
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