As Canberra netballers returned to the courts last weekend for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions came into force, two representative teams from The Capital Spirit were preparing to travel to Sydney for the NSW Premier League which starts this week.
Keely Rodrigo and Tamara Weatherburn will be captain and vice-captain of The Capital Spirit’s open team, while Emily Brady and Layla Bahgat will be captain and co-captain of the under-23s squad.
The two teams will make their debut in the NSW Premier League, which provides a direct pathway to the national Super Netball competition.
Super Netball has relocated to Queensland due to coronavirus clusters in NSW and Victoria. The revised model will see all non-Queensland Super Netball teams relocate to the south-east of Queensland for part or all of the season, which will still be made up of 14 rounds and a normal finals series.
Last year, one game of the competition was held in Canberra, with record numbers in attendance.
The Capital Spirit and South Coast Blaze will join the eight foundation teams in the NSW Premier League which has revised its format into pools with an October finals series.
For Keely Rodrigo, who has played the past two seasons with the Canberra Giants and previously with the Canberra Darters, the NSW Premier League presents an exciting opportunity.
Rodrigo is known for her work ethic, energy and as a well-respected role model across the netball community. She also has a reputation as a tenacious defender and a natural leader. Rodrigo said the endorsement from her coaching staff and teammates has made the appointment even more significant for her.
“I am beyond grateful for the supportive team environment we have made with The Capital Spirit. Leading this group in our first season is so exciting for me,” Keely said.
“We’re all very grateful we can play some netball. Each team in the competition is as fast and physical as the next and I am confident that our preparation will ensure we make an impact on the competition in our first season.”
Tamara Weatherburn has also jumped at the opportunity to be part of The Capital Spirit in 2020. Weatherburn says she is honoured to be a part of such a talented group and is excited by the prospect of the team under the leadership of international coach Kate Carpenter.
Leading the under-23 side, Emily Brady said the team is raring to go ahead of what has been a frustrating lead-up to the first game against North Shore United.
“We’re all feeling really confident about going up against the Sydney teams. We’re going to give it our best shot even though we’ve had a disrupted pre-season,” Emily told Region Media.
“We’ve worked really hard and had a few matches to prepare ourselves. We’ve built our progress every week and we’ve had a really great support program with our head coaches and strength and conditioning coaches, who wrote our programs and checked in on us.”
Emily said the teams will also be mindful of the changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic with a number of restrictions when they travel to Sydney.
“We’ll be following all the rules and procedures with travelling going in and out of Sydney. We’ll be keeping our sanitiser close by and keeping all our food and gear individualised, and just being really careful about what we do,” she said.
In her 10th year of competitive netball, Emily said the Premier League presents a fantastic stepping stone to the Australian Netball League and the Super League.
“This is a great opportunity for our Canberra teams to step out and go up against the Sydney teams and being a bit more competitive and just seeing how we go,” Emily said.
More importantly, she said it’s been great to be able to play their chosen sport again.
“It’s so good to have sport back again. We’ve been allowed to train but it’s been hard with reduced training times and schedules. But we can’t wait to play again. It’s been a long time coming.”
The NSW Origin Energy Premier League is the pinnacle competition in the state, showcasing the best current and emerging talent NSW has to offer. It provides a local, elite platform for players, coaches, officials and administrators, and opportunities to the Deakin University Australian Netball League (ANL), the feeder competition to Suncorp Super Netball.
To find out more. visit Netball ACT.