While Kate Moloney’s dream season would have ended with a Vixens’ premiership and a Diamonds’ call-up, the midcourt star had to be content with a Suncorp Super Netball preliminary final and Australia A selection instead.
Both had their positive elements, as Moloney needs to remind herself sometimes, but there was much to be proud of in 2019 for the runner-up in the Sharelle McMahon Medal and World Cup training partner, who played the most recent of her six Tests in the northern Quad Series in January.
Most recently, the 26-year-old was also one of the senior members of a development team that went unbeaten in their six matches against England New Zealand A teams in Canberra and Auckland earlier this month.
While her Vixens teammates Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Tegan Philip and Caity Thwaites were heading across the Tasman to prepare for the Constellation Cup, Moloney and Emily Mannix were about to return home after eight busy days under head coach Julie Fitzgerald and assistants Stacey Marinkovich and Michelle Den Dekker.
“The goal was to be over playing Constellation Cup, and that obviously didn’t happen, but I loved my opportunity to go and play with the Australian A side, to hopefully show what I could do and show them that I’m ready to take the next step up,’’ Moloney said.
“I really enjoyed being able to play with some new players and build some different combinations, have different coaching styles and play against some international competition. Both England and New Zealand fielded pretty strong teams - in particular New Zealand had quite a few of their Ferns girls playing.
“For me it was just about playing really free - there wasn’t a whole lot of structure; it was just reading what was out in front of you, which I really enjoyed - but also just going over there and working on a few little things that I wanted to work on.’’
The presence of multiple wing defences meant that Moloney’s time was split fairly evenly between centre and wing attack. The latter role helped with her desire to shorten up her game slightly, and the 96-game Vixen enjoyed feeding emerging Super Netball shooters Cara Koenen, Sophie Garbin and Keira Austin in particular.
If versatility is one of the sport’s current buzzwords, and Moloney is adept at all three positions through the middle, then she continues to work on two of her strongest attributes: leadership and defence.
“I suppose my defensive game has been one of my strengths in the past, but just making sure that I’m maintaining that, and continuing to work on my leadership skills, as well,’’ she said.
“I suppose you felt like you had a bit of a responsibility to show the younger girls what it is about, and what the Diamonds are about, and helping them prepare for that next step, as well.
“Netball is finished for me for the year now and I get to have a bit of a break and freshen up and start to get really fit and strong for 2020.’’
She was, clearly, both of those things in 2019, and what is still to come is a well-earned North American holiday with Mannix and Firebirds-bound Lara Dunkley later this month. The itinerary includes an NBA game involving Joe Ingles and his Utah Jazz against the Los Angeles Clippers - where a California cameo from newly-retired Vixen Renae is likely, too.
Moloney admits there was some relief that the curtain was drawn on her “long” netball year after the fourth match in Auckland, and while she will be varying rather than shelving her regular exercise routine, is looking forward to the mental break of three weeks away from netball’s routine and structure.
As for how she rates 2019, netball-wise, the admired captain mulls the question over for a moment.
“I was pretty happy with the way I played throughout the year, but you can always be better,’’ she said. “It was probably similar with the Vixens; there was inconsistency there, and that’s something that we have to get better at going into 2020 because our best performances are extremely good but our worst performances weren’t good enough at all.
“So it definitely was an up-and-down year. Sometimes you forget that we did finish third, and we want to finish first, but we did have a really good season and unfortunately we just weren’t good enough in that (preliminary final) against the Swifts.
“But we take a lot into 2020 and hopefully as a team we can improve, and individually for myself as well, and we have a really strong year in 2020.’’
Written by Linda Pearce