When Kadie-Ann Dehaney surprises her grandmother Egenie by arriving home in the Jamaican capital of Kingston on Monday, the Vixens’ 2018 Rookie of the Year is looking forward to reacquainting herself with a few other things she’s missed.
“Definitely the food, the hot weather and going to the beach,’’ says the rangy defender, who turns 22 on Tuesday.
“So just relaxing, but not relaxing too much!’’
For one thing, there are her university studies to resume, as Dehaney seeks to complete the first year of a teaching degree in geography and environmental science.
Then there is squad training with the Sunshine Girls ahead of their home Tests in October, as well as the fitness she wants to keep improving and the strength she knows she needs to build ahead of her third Suncorp Super Netball season for the Vixens.
Much ground was made in the second, as Dehaney multiplied her two games from a knee-injury-hampered 2017 with another eight, including all or part of the last seven rounds.
When Emily Mannix injured her finger against the Magpies in June, Dehaney was promoted to the starting seven, and not only did she remain there, but the former Jamaican 21-and-under captain showed enough promise to be nominated for Super Netball’s Young Player of the Year award eventually won by the West Coast Fever’s Jess Anstiss.
“Yeah, that was exciting,’’ she laughs. “Everyone was like ‘oh, you should have got it’, but I’m telling them ‘next year’, because I’m still in the (eligible) age group, and there’s heaps of room for improvement.’’
As well as power and aggression, the priority remains sharpening the 192-centimetre goal keeper’s footwork, and in recent weeks she has joined in training with the Vixens’ Diamonds’ squad members under Simone McKinnis.
“I’m doing a bigger gym program and eating heaps of protein to build that strength,’’ says Dehaney, who admits she has a better understanding this year of what is required away from the Vixens’ environment.
“Last year when I got injured I didn’t think I could do a full season and finish healthy, but I did, so that’s a plus for me.’’
With her round 12 performance against the Giants a personal highlight, Dehaney has taken other positives from a season in which the depleted Vixens narrowly missed the finals through a spirited last-round loss to the eventual champions Sunshine Coast Lightning.
“I was sad for Emily, but it was amazing for me,’’ she says of the opportunity to gain extra court-time perhaps slightly ahead of schedule.
“It’s a different intensity and different expectations to playing at training, and I wasn’t nervous, so it was good. Going out there, everyone was encouraging me to do my best, and once I do my best they know that I’m going to play well.’’
One realisation has been the need to trust in the training McKinnis and the Vixens provide.
“It’s like ‘I’ve been here before, I’ve been in this situation from day one’,’’ Dehaney says.
“That was one of the biggest things I learnt because it’s different from last year. Last year I didn’t have that exposure or experience, the decision-making on court.’’
Dehaney hopes to earn selection for both the Fast5 World Series at Melbourne Arena in October and the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool, and is confident those ambitions have been enhanced by her efforts for the close-knit club team she has re-signed with in 2019.
“Even though we didn’t finish like we wanted to finish, we learned something to take on for next year, and for the future,’’ she says. “If you look past the injuries and stuff, it was good.’’
Before flying out on Sunday, there was also the Rookie of the Year award to celebrate from the Sharelle McMahon Medal night that officially closed the Vixens’ season.
Dehaney will be back and expects to be better for the experience. She will enjoy a family reunion, her favourite Jamaican saltfish and some welcome warm weather in the meantime.
By Linda Pearce