The year was 2013. Simone McKinnis was the new coach of the underperforming Melbourne Vixens in the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship and, among a league-high six list changes, Kate Moloney’s was a bright new name.
The midcourter from Diamond Creek was a product of the Netball Victoria junior pathway, and a graduate of the City West Falcons (VNL) and the Victorian Fury (ANL). It was round three, a Monday night against the Canterbury Tactix.
A 48-27 lead.
Kate, you’re on.
“It feels like forever ago, and yet it’s gone so quick.,’’ Moloney said from Brisbane on the eve of her 100th game, on Wednesday, against the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
“I couldn’t tell you who I was playing against, but we must have been up by a little bit for Simone to throw me on, and what I can remember is how it was the fastest 15 minutes.
“I was just sort of a young skinny little kid, I’d been waiting a couple of games to get on court and it was just a dream come true to get out on court and play with the Melbourne Vixens. It was probably a whirlwind 15 minutes, and just the intensity, as well.’’
Describing that 2013 version of the centre who would become a permanent wing defence the next season and is now entrenched in the pivot again, and “raw” is the first word the now-27-year-old uses.
“I think I’ve grown a lot, on and off the court and I’ve been really lucky to have amazing people around me at the Melbourne Vixens over these hundred games who have really helped to mould me into the player, and the person, that I am.’’
Had someone said that night - her modest stats were three assists, one penalty and three turnovers - that Moloney would become just the third Vixen behind foundation co-captain Bianca Chatfield and the enduring Tegan Philip to reach triple figures: “There’s no way I would have believed them!
“I feel very grateful to be a part of the Melbourne Vixens, and when you first sign the contract you just think ‘oh wow’. It’s just a dream come true. I didn’t expect it, and to think now that I’ve played 100 games with the Melbourne Vixens is unreal.’’
Not that triple-figures will arrive in quite the way she had imagined. Instead of a full house against two-time Super Netball premiers, there will be a sparse protocol-dictated crowd at Sippy Downs that, unusually, does not include her much-travelled parents Denise and David.
The Moloney parents are at every home game and almost all of those interstate, but will instead be on the family couch in Melbourne’s north-east, sad not to be there, but grateful that in the time of coronavirus, there is a season to cheer. And, hopefully, a win and a milestone to celebrate with a glass of bubbly afterwards.
“We’ve been lucky enough to travel the world to watch her play - well, not the whole world, but we’ve been to South Africa and England, which has been really lovely. We would travel anywhere to watch her play,’’ says mum Denise.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I wouldn’t be at her 100th game. Put it that way. But we’re lucky that she’s playing. I’m just happy that she’s up there and she’s nice and safe, and they’re able to play, which is amazing.’’
By Denise’s calculations, her daughter’s 100th game as a player is also her 50th as captain. “Very, very proud of her obviously. I look back and think she’s where she’s supposed to be. She definitely deserves it. She puts in 100 per cent and she just loves it. She eats and breathes it. She always has. Ever since she was a little girl.’’
The Vixens’ 2014 premiership was an obvious highlight for all concerned, but Kate also nominates the inaugural round of Super Netball as among the most special.
Her first game as skipper. Against their shiny new rivals, the all-star Magpies.
“When all the changes happened with SSN, just the group of girls who stuck together, we were able to create something special ourselves, and I think when we hit the court for that first game against Collingwood was definitely another one of my favourite memories.’’
Another: last year’s semi-final beating of Collingwood at the State Netball Centre. The Vixens’ campaign was ended one week later by the Swifts, however, and the aim is clearly for the unbeaten early flag favourites to go two better this time.
Being a one-club centurion is particularly precious to Moloney, who was thrust into the captaincy after several senior defections, and has since forged a reputation as one of the competition’s most inspiring leaders. Not to mention its most vocal.
“I don’t know where she got that from. I suppose I do have a loud voice as well!’’ laughs Denise. “But she just loves it so much that it’s natural. What you see is what you get. It’s just how she is.’’
Kate is sharing the captaincy this season with her great friend and current room-mate, Liz Watson, but remains an indefatigable presence in the Vixens’ centre bib she first wore for 15 excited minutes in 2013. (Denise still has the recording. Of course she does).
“That’s something that’s really special to me: to reach 100 games, but to be able to say that I’ve played them all with the Melbourne Vixens, a club that I absolutely love, and a club that’s given me so much, I’m extremely grateful for that.’’
So what would that little six-year-old who fell in love with the game her mum and friends played think of what has transpired over the decades and 99 Vixens games since?
“I don’t think she’d believe us,’’ laughs Moloney, whose six-Test Diamonds career is surely unfinished, too.
“I grew up loving netball and wanting to play and dreaming of playing at the top level, but I never actually thought it would happen.
“So I feel very lucky to be in the position I am and hopefully I can add plenty more to that number as the years go on.’’
Written by Linda Pearce