Kadie-Ann Dehaney has spent the morning on the phone at Netball Victoria, calling lapsed or prospective Melbourne Vixens members to gauge their interest in joining up in 2019.
As part of her spiel, the shy young defender introduces herself, mentions the different packages available, as well as the ambition to break the club record in time for member appreciation round (seven) that coincides with the Queen's Birthday weekend game against the rival Magpies.
Do the supporters respond positively? “Yes, some of them!’’ Dehaney laughs. “No, it’s good. I tell them they should definitely re-sign. I say that we’re playing really well.’’
Certainly, if any further selling point is needed, the Suncorp Super Netball ladder should suffice. The Vixens are unbeaten heading into Saturday’s game against West Coast Fever in Perth, having also earned 11 of a possible 12 premiership points.
The ever improving Dehaney, Rookie of the Year in 2018, has received court-time in two of the three rounds, and played from late in the second quarter to the end of last Saturday’s 58-42 win over the Thunderbirds.
“The aim is to be better than last year, so I think I’m really on the right road. I feel stronger than last year as well,’’ says Dehaney, espousing the benefits of another valuable pre-season in which she also worked on her speed, increased physicality, and circle combinations with Jo Weston and Emily Mannix.
Has she added a few kilograms of muscle? “I wish - (but) no! Maybe one or two. But I feel more balanced, for sure, more in control of my body, I’d say.’’
At a long-limbed 192-centimetres, Dehaney certainly provides Simone McKinnis with a tall option at goal keeper, and the coach is immensely pleased with her progress.
“It’s Kadie-Ann’s third pre-season, and from the very start of it you could see that there’s a different level of confidence, and knowing what she’s doing and needed to do, which I’ve loved seeing,’’ says McKinnis.
“And she’s so excited with every opportunity. She’s so excited about being part of the team. She just loves it. She has been doing some great stuff in training, and we’re now seeing her having the confidence to take that out on court, as well.
“Ever since she’s been with us, she’s just absorbed and taken everything in and it’s all just started to come together for her, which is nice. For however many hours we spent doing extras with her over the past couple of years, it’s just rewarding for her to be getting out there and enjoying it out on court.’’
While Dehaney is in her third season at the elite level, foundation Vixen Caitlin Thwaites is the key addition to the club's list in 2019. The in-form shooter is also an occasional tutor for the four-Test Jamaican she regularly opposes at training.
“She’s really competitive and if I can improve on something, she helps me,’’ Dehaney says of Thwaites. “She says ‘shooters don’t like it when defenders do this’, or ‘you have to do that’, or ‘position yourself here’.
“I think she’s a cool-headed person to have at the front of the court. She’s definitely calm, I would say. Looking at her last year from the outside, when she played for Collingwood, she looks different to me - different and better, stronger, fitter this year, playing for the Vixens.’’
Dehaney says scant regard has been paid to the bottom-placed Fever’s winless start and a defence depleted by the elbow injury to captain Courtney Bruce. The West Coast captain is expected to return this week as the book-end to star shooter Jhaniele Fowler - Dehaney’s fellow student at the University of the West Indies, sometime teammate with the Sunshine Girls and member of the SSN WhatsApp group that also includes Romelda Aiken, Shimona Nelson and Shamera Sterling.
“So we chat very often, I would say, but even if I play against Romelda or Shimona, we just never talk about the game,’’ says Dehaney. “It just hasn’t been a subject. It’s just about life and we talk about what’s happening in netball in Jamaica.
“Jhaniele’s always a hard opponent to play against. She's just that rock-solid front end that Fever has and they will definitely use that to their advantage. Every time I play against Jhaniele or Romelda, it’s definitely a learning experience for me for the next game. But I always enjoy playing against them, for sure.’’
Written by Linda Pierce