After a long offseason that began back in October of 2018, Sam Poolman and the GWS Giants are set to return to the court for the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season.
Excitement is an understatement as the Western Sydney side prepares to face their arch-rivals the NSW Swifts on Sunday afternoon. According to pre-ticket numbers, more than 10,000 fans are set to descend on Qudos Bank Arena for the state derby.
For Newcastle’s Poolman, who will be taking to the court in her third season for the Giants, the chance to begin her 2019 campaign has got her champing at the bit. After defensive partner Bec Bulley called time on her illustrious career after the 2018 grand final loss, it also marks the first time Poolman will begin a season in orange without her in the circle.
“It’s definitely been a long time coming, and we’re excited that it’s finally here. We started training more than half a year ago it feels like, so it’s just pure excitement for us in the camp,” Poolman told the Women’s Chronicle ahead of the first round clash. “It’s really exciting to start with a massive game against the Swifts.”
As Super Netball fever retakes the New South Wales capital, talk of how the Giants will fare in 2019 is ramping up. The side has recruited strongly, notably picking up back-to-back champion shooter Caitlin Bassett. Julie Fitzgerald also added junior stars Teigan O’Shannassy, Amy Parmenter, and Matilda McDonell to the first team squad.
Now the Greater Western Sydney side enter their new season as runners-up to the Sunshine Coast side that edged them 62-59 in last year’s decider. For Poolman, and considering the slew of changes in the off-season, the defeat feels like ancient history.
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“It feels like such a long time ago, everyone keeps talking about how we lost, but it feels so long ago. We spoke about it early in the camp, but we lost a few experienced players since that game, and have a lot of new faces, so we aren’t dwelling on it,” she said.
“Our main focus going into this Super Netball season is consistency. At times were finished games really well, and then we started games really well, and now we need to bring those two together if we’re going to have a great year.”
6 days until we begin our 2019 campaign 👏👏
— GIANTS Netball (@GIANTS_Netball) April 21, 2019
Despite that mentality, the Novocastrian defensive star also knows the team has to find a new level if they want to go that one step further and lift the crown in 2019.
“It’s important to learn from what didn’t happen last year for us, even knowing that the team is changed we need to step up and fill those gaps that emerged,” she said.
“We had some incredible athletes last year, but we lost a lot of those names so we needed to bring in new stars and fill those gaps. The whole team is so excited that Caitlin decided to come to Sydney, she’s won the last two premierships with Lightning and has brought a lot of knowledge with her when she came.”
Poolman, who herself spent time in the New South Wales system, also said she was pleased to see the squad was being filled out with local state talent. It’s a topic especially close to her heart, considering she runs the Hunter-based ASPIRE program.
“One of the things I’ve been proud of in the last few years was the number of NSW Pathway athletes that have been in the team,” she said.
“Julie [Fitzgerald] could have filled our squad with internationals, but what I love about her is she’s happy to take a younger player in through our system and they’re a proud NSW player.
“You want nothing else than to see passionate young state players coming in, that can potentially be the next Susan Pettit or the next Bec Bulley in our squad. Young talent is a big part of Giants, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they go.”
Finally, the Giants defender issued a message to everyone considering flicking on the television to watch on Sunday afternoon, or making the trip to Qudos Bank Arena – you absolutely won’t regret it.
“Everyone that watches the game these days realises how fast and exciting our sport has become,” Poolman said. “Every year it gets faster and faster, and the amazing thing is that nearly every game is really close these days.
“That’s what you want to see from sport, you want them to go down to the wire. They’re expecting a massive crowd for the derby, so it’s going to be a great atmosphere, and we want to put on a great show for them all. I promise anyone watching the game, at the stadium or on television, won’t be disappointed.”
Super Netball begins on Saturday, April 27 with a double-header at Melbourne Arena from 3pm Saturday. The Firebirds will face the Vixens ahead of a major clash between the Sunshine Coast and Lightning.
Tickets for the first big battle on Poolman’s and the Giants’ menu are available here.
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Super Netball fans can also watch every single match live this season, with Channel 9 airing two games per week, and TelstraTV airing the second two of each weekend. All matches will also be available live via Netball Live Official app subscriptions.