The Australian Netball League is upon us, with the national competition underpinning Suncorp Super Netball and providing our next crop of stars the chance to showcase their talents on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
And no player is more aware of how ANL can launch a career than NSW Swifts young gun Sophie Garbin, who rode a standout 2017 season for the Western Sting all the way to a SSN contract.
Garbin spoke to Netball Australia about her whirlwind year and her path from ANL to the pinnacle of Australian netball.
It’s no secret that most goalers are notorious stat hounds.
Ask any goaler how they performed in their previous game and they can usually peel off their goals, attempts and percentages with consummate ease.
Rising NSW Swifts goaling star Sophie Garbin might well be one of them, but last year when she was poised to break the Australian Netball League record for most goals scored in a single season, she had no idea.
The Perth native dominated the ANL like no player before her in 2017, and yet as she stood on the cusp of history, someone else had to inform her that she was about to not only break (current Giants Netball goal shooter) Kristina Brice’s 2014 record of 468 goals in an ANL season, but obliterate it.
Garbin broke the record with 49 goals in her next game against the Territory Storm, and went on to set a new mark of 607 goals – an average of more than 43 goals in each of her 14 games.
“I had no idea that was even a statistic that was recorded,” she recalled.
“I didn’t know until the week before, someone told me and there was a bit of hype around it but I wasn’t worried about that. It was a credit to the team. I was able to score so many goals because we played well together.”
Leading the Western Sting to its maiden ANL title – after finishing the home and away season in third position – was the catalyst for Garbin’s recruitment and selection in the Swifts’ 2018 line-up.
She credits her ANL experience as the perfect platform to launch her professional netball career.
As an ANL player and West Coast Fever training partner, Garbin was able to hone her craft daily against current and former Diamonds players.
“ANL is definitely a step up from state age championships,” she said.
“Training alongside the West Coast Fever as a training partner really helped me. I was training against Courtney Bruce every day and played with Nat Medhurst.”
Garbin said ANL also allowed her to showcase her talent in front of Suncorp Super Netball coaches.
“Playing in ANL was a big stepping stone in my pathway to get to the Swifts,” she said.
“A lot of other players used ANL to get picked up by SSN clubs, as you weren’t only seen by your state, but other clubs as well.”
Having moved across the country to Sydney, Garbin said being away from her family had presented its share of challenges.
But it’s not as if she’s alone there, with more than half the team recruited from interstate and overseas, including Kate Eddy, who was recruited from Victoria after also having a standout ANL campaign for the Victorian Fury.
“There aren’t many New South Wales girls in the team, there are three from Adelaide, two internationals, one from Melbourne and me,” she said.
“I’m very much a mummy’s girl. I love my mum and my family, so it was hard for me to leave. All the girls were so great and having everyone else in the same boat makes it ten times easier. I can talk to the girls about everything I’m going through, as they are going through the exact same thing.”
The Australian Netball League season begins on Saturday 5 May, with games in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.