It can be both a blessing and a curse to be the new kid on the block.
No one knew what to expect from the Canberra GIANTS in their first season in the Australian Netball League last year, with GIANTS Netball’s underpinning program taking over from the longstanding Canberra Darters.
Establishing a new program amid a very short pre-season was only the first of the challenges. Then there was the travel required, with some athletes Sydney-based, while a number lived in Canberra and had to commute up for training.
And yet when the competition arrived the Giants delivered in spades, winning 10 of their 14 matches to finish second on the ANL ladder and book their ticket to finals weekend.
From there it was both heartbreak and elation for the league newbies, with the Giants giving up a six-goal half-time lead in the semi against Western Sting, who tied the scores at 58-58 at the final whistle, forcing the game into overtime where the Giants fell away to go down 66-72.
That disappointment was tempered by a stirring extra time win against Queensland Fusion in the bronze medal playoff the following day.
But there’ll be no surprises or secrets in 2018 – everyone knows exactly what the Giants will be bringing to the table.
With a squad that boasts GIANTS Netball training partners Georgia Marshall, Taylah Davies, Amy Parmenter and Teigan O’Shannassy, along with experienced quartet Toni Anderson, Beryl Friday, Ngawai Eyles and Maddie Hay, it’s a safe bet that the Giants will be in the finals hunt come season’s end.
Midcourter Georgia Clayden, who was a part of the team last year and also represented the Darters in previous seasons, said the team had enjoyed a much better and more stable preparation ahead of the 2018 competition.
“Last year it was very new and very exciting, and with that it brought its own challenges, because it was a very different setup with the Super Netball and then us the second tier down from that,” Clayden said.
“It felt very rushed – the season started very early last year, in February and March. Suddenly we were playing, but it was still a great season.”
“This year we’ve had a lot more time to prepare, we’ve had a better preparation, we know what we’re in for from last year, what the setup is and all those little details.”
Some challenges remain for the Giants, with athletes spread across two cities more than three hours apart.
“That can be quite tricky and that’s where we’re quite unique from the other teams. Generally how it works is that us Canberra girls and the Sydney girls will do our own gym and conditioning, and throughout the pre-season we were going up to Sydney every second week,” Clayden said.
“As we’ve gotten close to the season we’ve gone up every week on a Tuesday night.”
But with interstate games every second weekend throughout the ANL season, being accustomed to the travel could play into the Giants’ hands.
While Clayden, 22, isn’t exactly itching to talk about how last year ended, she said that the experience of making it to finals weekend would weigh in her team’s favour as the quickfire eight-week season unfolds.
“It’s still a bit of a touchy subject. The finals last year were amazing – both into extra time, you can’t really ask for much more than that,” she said.
“It was the first year, we really wanted to set a standard and we got to finals, we got all the way there, but this year we want to take it a step further.”
“We’re definitely aiming to top last year.”
The Giants start their ANL season with a pair of away games against Southern Force in Adelaide on Saturday 5 May and Sunday 6 May. Their first home games are the following weekend, with home state derbies against the NNSW Waratahs.
CHECK OUT THEIR FULL FIXTURE HERE.
2018 Canberra GIANTS
Toni Anderson (Sutherland Shire, NSW)
Georgia Clayden (Arawang, ACT)
Taylah Davies* (Eastwood Ryde, NSW)
Ngawai Eyles (Netball ACT)
Beryl Friday (Randwick, NSW)
Angelina Frketic (Baulkham Hills, NSW)
Maddie Hay (Sutherland Shire, NSW)
Stephanie MacGougan* (Manly Warringah/Northern Suburbs, NSW)
Nalani Makunde (Canberra, ACT)
Georgia Marshall* (Manly Warringah, NSW)
Teigan O’Shannassy* (Manly Warringah, NSW)
Amy Parmenter* (St George District, NSW)
Keely Rodrigo (Tuggeranong, ACT)
Kara Styles (St George District, NSW)