Ask Kate Eddy to share some words that best describe her, and the first few come easily enough. Bubbly. Unique. Easy-going. Approachable/friendly. And, netball-wise, to paraphrase her former Suncorp Super Netball coach Briony Akle: dogged.
“Can you say professional singer, or something?’’ jokes the new Melbourne Vixens defender, and, yes, we could. Except that she isn't. Eddy's singing "career" is mostly limited to at-home karaoke, when there’s the prospect of anything Justin Bieber to be belted out, and, ideally, a spot of dancing to be done, too.
But, we digress, for there is another term being used about the Vixens' 2020 replacement for the retired Renae Ingles: the perfect fit.
So it would seem. Eddy is a product of the Victorian pathway, a childhood Melbourne Phoenix-turned Vixens’ supporter who has always dreamed of wearing the navy blue. A former national championship winner at state 17-and-under level and a Victorian Fury ANL representative, she spent the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball year as a Vixens’ training partner.
Yet with no prospect of a playing contract for 2018, the versatile defender accepted a two-year deal to join the NSW Swifts. At 20, it was hard to leave home - including her family, friends and boyfriend, Magpie Tom Phillips - at first, despite the sisterhood to be found in a share house with new teammates including Maddy Proud and new Diamond Maddy Turner.
A serious ankle injury suffered in a practice match against the Giants during the World Cup break would prove to be a fork in the road, however, for it emphasised how much of Eddy's life in Sydney was all about netball. It was not long after that season-ending mishap that she decided her truncated second season with the Swifts would be her last.
The Vixens were not her only suitors, but, for several reasons, the 22-year-old is confident she made the right choice.
“I knew what the Vixens’ culture was like, and the Swifts culture was amazing so I didn’t want to come back to a culture that was anything less than that it was up here,’’ Eddy said, on a final trip to Sydney to load her remaining possessions for the drive back to Melbourne.
“I know from past experiences that the Vixens have a good culture and a good bond off the court, which is important to me, and I think that’s why the Swifts were so successful this year: because we got along so well off the court.’’
Eddy loves that the Vixens are determined to prioritise Victorians, where possible, and boast a league-high eight home-grown products on their list of 10. Another lure was the chance to learn the wing defence game from coach Simone McKinnis, arguably the best to ever play in that position.
No doubt the decision was the one Eddy's determined younger self would have made, too.
“Ever since the Phoenix and Kestrels combined, I always wanted to play for the Vixens,'' she said. "Since I was a little girl I always wanted to be a netballer.
"(At) my year six graduation, I said what I wanted to do when I was older was to play netball for Australia - and I guess being from Victoria, the Vixens were the club that I wanted to play for, as well.’’
Eddy has already represented her country at under-age level, including at the 2017 World Youth Cup, and was an invitee to a Diamonds' squad camp earlier this year, only for injury to intervene.
She is still adjusting to the move from the circle to the wing, and the challenges that come with a crucial but sometimes under-appreciated role.
“Wing defence is a very very hard position to learn and I think that’s why a lot of people when they’re young don’t want to play wing defence,'' Eddy said.
"I feel like it is a lot of hard work, with not as much reward, as such, because you are out in front of your goal defence and goal keeper, who really do get the intercepts and everything like that, but I guess (the defensive pressure) comes from all the way down the court.
“I’m just happy to play, and play with some pretty cool people, as well. I’m happy to play any of those three defensive positions, because I might match up on someone differently compared to other people, so as long as I’m consistent in all of that.’’
Having become long-serving team physio Steve Hawkins’ latest Vixens’ patient, Eddy hopes to soon resume running, but first needs to recover fully from the complications suffered while attempting to accelerate her rehabilitation to be ready for the SSN grand final.
Eddy also plans to resume her Health Science course at Deakin University, and later this month departs on a three-week trip to South Africa and Mauritius with her partner Phillips that will include several days of community work and then some much-needed lazing on the beach.
Meanwhile, Eddy’s bedroom is getting a minor makeover and, just as she is not the same person or player she was when she left, the new look will be a mix of the old and the new. The move is starting to feel real now, and she is not the only one excited for 2020 to arrive.
“Kate really is the perfect fit in the sense that I absolutely love that she was part of the Vixens a few years ago and headed off to Swifts for an opportunity,’’ says captain Kate Moloney.
“To be able to get one of our Victorians back, and an extremely good defender - wing defence, circle defender - as well, will be awesome. Being able to cover all three positions she’s going to be a really really handy player for us, and I’m really looking forward to working with her.’’
Written by Linda Pearce