Suggest to Kadie-Ann Dehaney that she has never played better than in the past two weeks, and the smile in her agreement can be heard without it needing to be seen.
“I’m feeling good, feeling healthy, and just having a bit of fun out there,’’ says the 192cm goal keeper, who arrived at the Vixens for the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season in 2017 as a project player with much to learn.
Plenty was physical, but a big part of educating ‘KD’ has involved her mental approach, with Dehaney having crafted a new resolve while working with Vixens sports psychologist Tony Glynn.
“I told myself that this year I’ll definitely have confidence, no matter what. Like, no doubtful thoughts,’’ says the 24-year-old, who admits she struggled previously to maintain concentration and stay in the moment.
Speaking from 1500km away at the Vixens’ sunny Mooloolaba base, Dehaney also reveals she also has benefited from the advice that is regularly forthcoming from far more distant friends. That is, back home in Kingston, Jamaica.
Example A: her self-described No.1 supporter Minneth Reynolds, the former Sunshine Girls coach Dehaney has known since she started playing netball in her early teens, and with whom she enjoys pre-and-post game chats. "She always lightens the air with her humour if there’s any nerves, and I have never felt pressured to perform for her; she’s always positive.''
Example B: Dehaney's friend Authorn Chambers, who plays for the national men’s team. “So I’ve been getting little tips and tricks, like what he would do and what he would suggest, which helps me as well.’’
Whatever works, and in the round five win against the Queensland Firebirds, starting in place of the injured Emily Mannix and playing the full 60 minutes, Dehaney contributed four deflections, three interceptions - INCLUDING THE MATCH-SAVER CONVERTED BY RAHNI SAMASON - and two rebounds.
In last Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Adelaide Thunderbirds, she led the Vixens’ Nissan Net Points count with a career-high 76.5 that included seven gains over the 60 minutes.
More common, previously, has been Dehaney’s role as an impact player off the bench, which she performed with distinction against Jhaniele Fowler in the opening round, and leaves her prepared and willing for whatever role coach Simone McKinnis asks her to play.
“Always. The intention is to start and then if I don’t get the start then (be) ready to come on,'' she says.
"The key is to always be ready, because you never know when you’re going to be called up, and you don’t want to be disappointed if you get the chance to go out there and don’t execute.’’
Fitness has been another plus, says Dehaney, whose return to Australia was delayed by Covid-19, and who dared not to appear “at zero per cent (but) to come to Simone more ready than usual. I’m definitely fitter game-wise’’.
It has been a gradual evolution for someone with obvious physical gifts who can laugh that she has never measured her wingspan, and thinks those of fellow Sunshine Girls Romelda Aiken and Fowler would be longer.
Nor has she heard former Diamonds captain and defender Laura Geitz in commentary praising her recent impact hailing “those limbs” working in tandem with the close-checking Jo Weston at goal defence. But the plaudits are coming as her contribution grows.
“In my first two years I didn’t mind sitting on the bench. I was fine. I was like ‘oh, I’m willing to sit and learn’ because when I first got to the Vixens I was coming from (being) a shooter, just becoming a goal keeper, learning my role. I basically learnt how to play goal keeper in my first year coming to Australia,'' Dehaney says.
“Then Emily got injured in my second year and I had to get more court-time. She broke her finger in my third year and it was amazing to get out there, but I didn’t think I was ready to be starting, it was fun. I enjoyed it. But at the same time, I was still scared and doubtful.
"Like, I wasn’t sure what I was doing, cos it’s a different thing from training when you go out on court. I was still questioning myself, but I still had fun and I was like 'here if you need'. Then last year, that was a good year. I started to feel more confident and more belief.''
Where Dehaney has also settled is back into Queensland life with room-mate Allie Smith, the pair having also shared an apartment over the many months the Vixens spent in Brisbane in 2020.
Someone who loves company co-habits in Melbourne with Magpies Jodie-Ann Ward and Khalifa Collins and would never live alone. So, unlike all those Vixens who have left family behind in Victoria for however long this current stint north continues, Delaney is not finding the move away as difficult as some.
"With Allie, we're two totally different people, but we get each other and we have similar things in common,’’ says Dehaney, as Smith contributes suggestions in the background.
Humour, for example. They get each others’ jokes. They both like to walk - but Smith earlier and more for the sake of it, while keen sleeper Dehaney tends to need a shopping/sightseeing-type purpose.
Smith is quieter, tidier, cooks more often and with more variety. Dehaney loves watching YouTube and scary movies, occasionally recruiting Hannah Mundy to view a thriller. “Allie likes the lovey-dovey stuff,’’ she says, with obvious disdain.
Overall, the shorter Queensland experience in 2021 - as Melbourne, fingers crossed, prepares to emerge from its latest lockdown - has been more positive in a lifestyle sense than the extended hub of 2020, with lessons learnt now being implemented. No complaints, though, either time.
On the court, regardless of Dehaney's personal improvement, it has been a difficult season for the proud Vixens’ collective, with the reigning SSN champion 1-5 heading into Saturday’s relocated Melbourne derby against Collingwood in Sydney.
“I’ll be honest: it’s been very hard,’’ says Dehaney. "Coming off last year’s success we’ve only won one of six, but I feel like we’ve had those hard discussions with each other and we’re definitely open to the critiques whether they’re negative or positive, and we’ve definitely hungry to improve as a team.
“The goal is definitely to make finals. At this stage we’re relying on others to lose, but we’re just focusing on us at the moment. We’ve just got to start winning more games and then chip away quarter by quarter. Then hopefully, you never know, we might be in the top four.’’
Written by Linda Pearce