Netball: Suncorp Super Netball has launched in Sydney for the 2017.
MAGPIES captain Madi Robinson says there will be no room for sentiment when she steps out on court against her old team — the Melbourne Vixens — for the first time tonight.
As netball prepares to open a new era — with Melbourne showcasing two teams for the first time since 2007 — Robinson revealed she was initially worried how her move to the Magpies would be received by supporters.
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The champion wing attack created one of the biggest shocks of the recruiting period for the new league when she defected to the Collingwood-backed team after six years with the Vixens, who she captained last year.
But Robinson, a member of the Vixens’ 2014 championship-winning team, said there would be no time for reflection as she opened a new chapter in her career.
“I have no doubt I will be nervous, anxious, there will be a lot of excitement, adrenaline going — but I just can’t wait to get out there and play with this new team,’’ Robinson said.
“I hold some really special memories with a lot of those girls … but it will be on for young and old. I hope this rivalry is something people will be talking about for many, many years to come.
“It’s such a big moment for such an iconic brand and well known club like Collingwood, you love or hate us and we’ll embrace that and I can’t wait for the journey ahead this season.’’
In a mouth-watering start to the Suncorp Super Netball season, Robinson’s match-up against her former team is one of the key storylines of the opening round. She has been joined at the Magpies by her former Vixens’ teammate, young goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld.
Robinson, a dual Liz Ellis Diamond winner, said she initially thought her long history and her leadership standing with the Vixens would detract rival teams.
But she said the lure of a fresh challenge and the opportunity to push herself outside her comfort zone at the age of 29 had proved too hard to resist.
“Originally, I thought I would be staying at the Vixens. I didn’t think there would actually be any interest from other clubs, I thought that I had been a bit of a stalwart at the Melbourne Vixens for so long, obviously having won a premiership and been the captain I didn’t think there would be much interest,’’ Robinson said.
“But then when talks could start happening, the thought of a new challenge, of something a bit uncomfortable, something new was exciting.
“It was going to be a risk and it was going to be hard and I knew there would be a lot of talk about it, but I just looked at the pros and cons like I do with any of my decisions and thought this is the right thing for me to be doing right now.’’
But Robinson admitted she had been concerned how the move would be received.
“A lot of those fans are people that have followed me for the last 12 or 13 seasons that I played when I first started at Kestrels, then at Vixens, then in the west and coming back,’’ she said.
“It was hard to think how are they going to perceive me. But I guess the people that truly know me know that I don’t make these decisions lightly.’’
After a brilliant return from knee surgery last season, Robinson declared this month she felt as fit and strong as ever this pre-season and was confident she could still improve her game.
“The calibre of the players that are in the team that I’m constantly training against … I know it’s only going to take my game to greater things,’’ Robinson said.
“My mindset has changed, it’s not all about me playing the best game I possibly can. Of course, I want to go out there and compete and do well, but the greater challenge is making sure I can get every other person hitting their straps at the same time.’’
Robinson knows better than most the pressure that is on the Diamond-studded Magpies team, but said
“There is external pressure, internal pressure and there is individual pressure that we are putting on ourselves,’’ Robinson said.
“I know that we’ve got that target on the back, like we are going to be hunted, but for us it’s so important to make sure that we stay true to ourselves and true to our trademark and what we are going to stand for as Magpies.’’
MEANWHILE, Vixens vice-captain Liz Watson says her team is happy to play the underdogs ahead of tonight’s first cross-town showdown with the Magpies.
But the star midcourter predicted that the young Vixens’ list would deliver a “few surprises” in the first season of the new Suncorp Super Netball league.
In the match dubbed ‘The Battle’ at Hisense Arena, the much-vaunted Magpies line-up will start as the short-priced favourites against the team that has been Melbourne’s own since the now defunct trans-Tasman league started in 2008.
Midcourter Watson, a Vixen since 2014, said the team had been content to let the spotlight fall on the new team in town in the build-up to the season.
“We’re fine to fly under the radar … I think we’re content with being the underdogs,’’ Watson said.
“There has been a lot of build-up and anticipation around this round, but we have had a great pre-season and we’re ready to go now.
“We are quite a young team and inexperienced but this pre-season has been one of the toughest ones that I have been a part of and there’s just been this really nice feeling among the group.
“I think there will be a few surprises, a few of the girls who have been around have really stepped up and I guess with the inclusion of our new players as well, they have added something else to the group that Vixens have never seen before.’’
One of three derbies scheduled for the opening Super Netball round, the all-Melbourne match at Hisense Arena is closing in on a sellout with fewer than 1000 tickets left yesterday.
Watson said it would be a strange feeling seeing her former captain Madi Robinson across the court for a rival team, but stressed it would be “business as usual” for the team.
“It will be different seeing her out there on our home court in different colours,’’ Watson said.
“But at the end of the day whatever team you are playing against out there it is there is always that whiteline fever feeling.
“I think it’s just business as usual when we get out on court.’’
Vixens’ defender Jo Weston, one of seven returning players from last season, said the team was not only intent on
“We don’t just want to be the No. 1 team in Victoria, we want to be the No. 1 team in the competition,’’ Weston said.
“Melbourne is a very big place and it’s the sporting capital of Australia so there is plenty of room for more than one netball team.’’
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MELBOURNE VIXENS v MAGPIES NETBALL
Hisense Arena, tonight, 7.10pm
Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Mwai Kumwenda, Emily Mannix, Kate Moloney, Tegan Philip, Emma Ryde, Chloe Watson, Liz Watson, Khao Watts, Jo Weston.
April Brandley, Ashleigh Brazill, Shae Brown, Cody Lange, Sharni Layton, Kim Ravaillion, Madi Robinson, Alice Teague-Neeld, Caitlin Thwaites, Micaela Wilson.
Vixens — $4
Magpies — $1.22
REBECCA WILLIAMS’ TIP:
Magpies by 5