Kadie-Ann Dehaney spent almost nine coronavirus-lockdown weeks in Perth playing Uno, Jengo and Twister, dancing on TikTok and honing her footwork on Zoom, enjoying home-cooked oxtail and speaking in her native Patois.
As one of a group of stranded Jamaicans that included West Coast star (and WA-based host) Jhaniele Fowler, Adelaide’s Shamera Sterling and Magpie recruit Jodi-Ann Ward, Dehaney has made a nomadic start to a highly unusual 2020.
She has trained both in Melbourne with her Vixens teammates and remotely on the other side of Australia, alongside three players who will be rivals when Suncorp Super Netball begins on August 1.
Only now is some form of new normality unfolding, almost three weeks after Dehaney’s May 28 return to her adopted home state.
So how did it feel to be back in Melbourne? “Cold. It was cold!’’ she laughs. “But netball-wise I was ready. I was really excited to get back on court. Especially the night before we started training, I was like a kid, I was so excited.’’
The dual World Cup representative had been similarly delighted when she learned of a confirmed opening date for the delayed season, although there had been a few nerves, too. “Like ‘is it really gonna start August 1st?’, or are they gonna say ‘oh, nah, November’. That was the only doubt; that it would get pushed back, but I was never thinking that ‘oh, netball is never gonna happen’.’’
Now, as round one inches closer, a return to light contact training is the next in a series of welcome comeback steps - not just for the Vixens’ 2018 Rookie of the Year, but for all involved/invested in Super Netball.
Personally, Dehaney is pleased to finally be settled, too. The 23-year-old has moved house five times this year - including two short stints with the family of Vixens’ team manager, Lisa Taylor, and, most recently, into a bayside apartment with Ward.
Like fellow Sunshine Girls Fowler and Sterling, the defenders were friends before the bond was strengthened by their time co-habiting in Perth. There, the quartet shared the use of a makeshift bedroom gym, the nightly cooking duties (although the “not a very good cook” Dehaney prefers the cleaning up) and plenty of games and chat.
A return to Jamaica was not feasible after the US closed its borders, and nor was it desirable in case it was too difficult to return on time for a postponed round one. The 192-centimetre goal keeper (who can pinch-hit under the other post) is unsure which club’s idea it was to establish a Perth training base, but happy that someone did.
“All the Jamaicans, we wanted to come together because basically we don’t have family here in Australia other than each other, so we were like ‘oh, yeah, we will come’,’’ Dehaney says of her stint in WA. “And we ended up staying for, like, two months, which is a long time!
“It was good to hang out with the girls. It was weird for the start, because I’ve never been around them that long before. For example, I usually go to Brisbane to spend my Christmas with Romelda (Aiken), for maybe, like, a week. So to live with the Jamaicans for two months, that was weird, but it was fun at the same time.’’
Traditional oxtail was among the dinner offerings, and Jamaican Creole the primary language spoken. Netball chat was limited to generalities - just as Dehaney expects it will be with Ward, a new signing with the Vixens’ fierce Melbourne rival, the Pies.
“We talk about netball but it’s a general talk about netball. It’s not like ‘at Magpies we do this’ and ‘oh, at Vixens we do this’,’’ she says, while admitting it will nevertheless be difficult to keep some secrets contained under a shared roof. “That’s gonna be hard because if she’s injured, touch wood, I’m gonna be like ‘she’s gonna be out this week.’ And surely she would do the same to me!’.’’
Both are grappling with this mysterious sport called AFL, although Dehaney did develop a little more insight during her time with the Taylors. Son Curtis made his debut for North Melbourne in 2019, and 'KD' was a spectator at a recent intra-club practice game as the Kangaroos’ geared up for their own competitive return.
She jokes that Curtis played well. Or at least she thought he did. Actually, she really had no idea at all. Footy? Hmmm. Not the tertiary student’s specialist subject.
Yet, fortunately, as Dehaney enters her fourth season with the Vixens, she has a far clearer picture of how she will measure her own sporting success in 2020.
“My goals are firstly to get us to win the championship, of course,’’ says the rangy goal keeper, who played eight of her 21 SSN games last season.
“Individually I hope to get on court more and just to have more presence on court. I’ve got to keep the performance upbeat, the intensity high.’’
Written by Linda Pearce