Morgan returns to spearhead Storm’s ANL campaign

DSC_0947Former national league star Jo Morgan never thought a chance meeting with her former Australian Institute of Sport coach Gillian Lee in April would lead to her joining the Territory Storm in the Australian Netball League.

Morgan, pictured right, is returning to the national scene to spearhead the Storm’s 2015 ANL campaign, which begins in Darwin on Friday night.

Morgan was one of the most prolific shooters in the former national league, scoring more than 4000 goals for the Sydney Sandpipers and Queensland Firebirds and is ranked only behind Catherine Cox and Sharelle McMahon for the most goals of all time.

She represented Australia in a Test match against New Zealand in 1996.

Queensland Firebirds v Adelaide ThunderbirdsLee is the Storm’s new coach and first worked with the shooter when she was a scholarship holder at the Australian Institute of Sport in the early 1990s.

Morgan, who now lives on the Gold Coast and is teaching PE and netball at Helensvale State High School, is still playing at State League level in Queensland. She said school Principal Mark Blackshaw had been a tremendous support to her comeback.

The 41-year-old said she bumped into Lee when both were in Sydney in April for the 17/U national titles and the offer came to link up with the Storm not long after that.

“I hadn’t seen Gill for many, many years,” Morgan said. “I had to weigh up a couple of things. I consulted a few mentors, I spoke to my state league coach and a couple of people heavily involved in netball at the elite level as well as my partner.

“They all said I would be mad not to do it. It’s my final year playing so I thought it would be a really good way to go out. I’m seeing it as a challenge – and it’s been good playing State League because this week I played against the (QLD) Fusion defence line and we came away with a win, so that’s boosted my confidence as well (knowing I can match them).”

Lee said her experience, along with that of captain Tahlia Lee, deputy Rebecca Winch and defender Katelyn Henwood, would be invaluable to the young Storm line-up.DSC_0959

“It’s also really exciting for the NT girls to have a player of that calibre coming on board,” Lee said.

“You don’t lose your netball brain, your reading of the game or your shooting ability and it’s also great to have some experience and maturity down the other end of the court.”

Morgan joined her teammates at training for the first time on Wednesday night ahead of the upcoming round. Having been a selector for Queensland’s 17/U side this year, Morgan has heard rave reviews about some of the young talent in the Storm’s line-up such as Billie Gurr and Kate Eddy.

“Gill’s like a magnet for players. They will want to play for her and respond to her because she’s a phenomenal coach,” Morgan said. “It’s a good, balanced team. Hopefully I can pass on my experience and help bring through the NT’s juniors.”

The Storm open their 2015 campaign against the Western Sting, which has a new coach this year in current Australian selector Michelle Wilkins and eager to improve on last season’s third-placed finish.

_MCA5378LiThe Sting’s line-up boasts West Coast Fever players Kate Beveridge, Courtney Bruce, Ingrid Colyer and Kaylia Stanton, pictured right, along with former Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds midcourter Andrea Gilmore.

Last year’s runners up QLD Fusion will take on Southern Force on Friday night in the first of five matches to be played in Brisbane this weekend.

Queensland Firebirds’ assistant coach Jenny Brazel will take charge of the Fusion this year with three members of the recent ANZ Championship title-winning team – Laura Clemesha, Beryl Friday and Verity Simmons – part of her line-up.

Australian 21/U coach Tania Obst returns to take charge of the Force, having led them to their only title in 2012, with newly-appointed Manchester Thunder coach Dan Ryan her assistant.

Nicola Gray joins the Force after representing Storm last season and will be joined by Thunderbirds teammates Cody Lange, Samantha Poolman and Kate Shimmin.