When Hannah Mundy was chatting to Kate Moloney in Suncorp Super Netball’s Brisbane hub recently, the 20-year-old shared a secret: until not so long ago, the Melbourne Vixens’ 2014 premiership poster was still on her bedroom wall.
“She’ll probably kill me for telling you that,’’ says Moloney, of one of the competition’s rising stars. “I know she loves the club. She’s been a huge Vixens fan for such a long time and I love that about her.’’
It was a similarly charming case of fan-girling in the car the previous day, with Mundy’s recall of Vixens’ games and her knowledge of all things navy dress never failing to impress those who have played in both.
So, it’s little wonder that Mundy slotted in so well when promoted from training partner to temporary replacement player - after champion Liz Watson was ruled out for the season due to foot surgery - to round one debutante, before going on to play in every game of 2021.
As to how the reality compared with what she was expecting: “Well, I wasn’t expecting the call-up! It was obviously a good surprise, but I was sort of lost for words, I guess.
“But because it was (as) the temporary replacement it was just week by week, so for me it wasn’t focusing on the season, it was just game by game, and just increasing my confidence each game was one of the big things I focused on.
“I think at the start I was a bit timid... but each game I’ve taken more responsibility to take leads and be the playmaker and just taking that strong drive and believing in myself that I am strong enough and just ripping the ball in, I guess.
“And obviously having the experience around me is really helpful, and really guides me and has directed a lot of where I lead and how I lead.’’
Just 12 months ago, the primary teaching student at Deakin University was a VNL player frustrated by the Covid postponement, and an aspiring Vixen at home in Melbourne’s east as a famous premiership was on the way to being won.
“To think that 12 months ago I hadn’t stepped out on an SSN netball court, yeah, it actually blows my mind to think where I am now,'' she says. "But still a long way to go.’’
Indeed, so unexpectedly did it all unfold that Mundy worked the 1-5pm shift in the curtain department at Spotlight Box Hill on the eve of round one against the West Coast Fever at John Cain Arena. To this day, Mundy is still being asked when she’s ready to come back to work.
Yet it was her performance in her current job that was a rare bright spot in a challenging Vixens’ season. “Her strength really is her strength out there on court, and just her touch on the ball,’’ says Moloney. “She looks like a natural netballer out there and I think she’s going to be a really good player at the Vixens for a long time.
“She loves the Vixens, she loves netball and she just wants to learn, and I think she’s grown every time she’s stepped out on court. She’s just so appreciative of the opportunity in what’s been such a crazy year, and moving around and not knowing what’s going on. But she just loves being with the group and being away with us, which is great.’’
Meanwhile, the word is that rival clubs are circling, with Watson’s return to her customary wing attack role for 2022 likely to push Mundy out of the starting seven and limit her playing minutes.
“Obviously with Lizzy coming back, I would love to learn off her and continue my journey at the Vixens, but if that isn’t an option then I guess just see where it takes me,’’ she says.
“I do love the Vixens’ culture, and being a Victorian it’s such a privilege to represent your own state, so it would obviously be amazing if the opportunity is there.’’
On a lighter note, we ask Mundy how she thinks she has become known within the team and she gets a little lost for words. Moloney? Not so much.
“She’s kind of like the little class clown, isn’t she?’’ says the longest-serving current Vixen, before calling out to Watson, her Brisbane roommate, for affirmation.
“We all just laugh at her. She pranks me all the time. Liz and I are a bit old for that, but she just knock-knocks on our door. Leaves things at our door. You don’t even bother trying to work out who it is. It’s definitely Hannah.
“She loves TikTok. It’s just another whole generation. You don’t think you’re old until you start hanging out with them,’’ adds Moloney, all of 28. “Hannah’s awesome to have around the group. She keeps us laughing, which is good.’’
For her part, Mundy has been living the dream, getting to know a couple of her childhood idols and learning that the likes of Moloney and Watson are actually “real people” - even if the latter's Snapchat name appears on her phone as “Idol” rather than Liz.
“I tell each one that the other one’s my fave!’’ laughs the daughter of former great Shelley O'Donnell. “They definitely know that I do respect them and admire them pretty highly, but sometimes I try to bring them down to my level a little bit!’’
So let’s finish with another lockdown reveal. Just between us, though. Last week mentor/captain Kate took Hannah out for a takeaway lunch in Brisbane and they got to chatting. As you do.
“I said to her ‘I remember walking into my first training session, and there was Sharelle McMahon and Bianca Chatfield’,’’ Moloney recalls.
“She said ‘I walked in (to my first session) and I was ‘oh, there’s Kate Moloney and Liz Watson and MJ (Kumwenda)’ and I said ‘oh, it’s not the same’. And she was like, yes it is!’.
“I think that’s why she just loves it, and now she’s got the opportunity to have Lizzie there and helping her out there on court and I think that’s great. She just listens, and she’s very coachable and she just wants to get better and better, which is what you want from a young kid coming through.’’
Sounds like a long-term Vixen, and possible future leader. Moloney thinks so. No need to keep quiet about that.
Written by Linda Pearce