Round 2: Melbourne Vixens vs Adelaide Thunderbirds

Match Day Guide

🦊 Round 2: Melbourne Vixens vs Adelaide Thunderbirds Match Day Guide

Lily Graham steps up

Lily web
2 weeks ago

Written by Amelia Barnes

To say life has changed in the last 12 months for Lily Graham would be an understatement.

This time last year, the up-and-coming shooter was attending high school and was yet to play her first Championship level game in the Victorian Netball League (VNL).

She’s now signed to the best netball league in the world.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Graham was preparing for the National Netball Championships (NNC) in Victoria’s 19/Under team, and her first pre-season games as a Melbourne Vixens training partner.

Graham was the only new training partner selected to the Vixens squad for 2024 and was relishing the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished coaches and players in the game.

That all changed when Mwai Kumwenda – the Vixens’ long-time goal shooter – announced her pregnancy and would be sitting out the entire season for the first time in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) era.

The Vixens’ shooting end was in safe hands following the signing of Australian Diamond Sophie Garbin in the off-season, but the team needed another versatile shooting option who could provide impact off the bench, sink super shots, and offer a change in playing style as required.

Enter Lily Graham.

It was just another day of training when Vixens head coach Simone McKinnis OAM broke the news of her signing to Graham.

“I was pulled into a meeting halfway through a gym session and was told by Simone that I had earned the 10th spot,” Graham said.

“I was completely surprised and was lost for words in the moment, but ultimately just super happy and honoured that everyone at the Vixens has trusted me with this opportunity, especially Simone and Di [Honey].”

Graham has proved herself as a reliable and accurate player in recent years representing Victoria. She played in the state’s 17/Under team at the 2022 NNC shooting at 87% accuracy, and the 19/Under team the following year shooting at 88%.

Her first Australian Netball Championships (ANC) appearance in 2023 was cut short due to injury, but Graham still managed to slot 69 goals at 91% in just 106 minutes of playing time.

Graham was in Netball Australia’s national 17/Under pathway squad in 2022 and is part of the 19/Under squad for 2023-2024.

Now a fully contracted Vixen, Graham will take some time away from university and will no longer compete at the upcoming NNC competition as she prepares for her official SSN debut.

At just 18 years of age, Graham is the youngest contracted athlete in the league. On court she will face some athletes almost twice her age – many with years of international experience.

“I wouldn’t say I feel intimidated by the age or experience of other players,” Graham said. “I more so look up to them and admire them, they are all amazing athletes who know so much about the game, and hopefully I can learn from them along the way whether they are my opponents or teammates.”

Not long ago these players were Graham’s idols – now they’re her peers.

“I haven't really told the girls this, but I would watch every Vixens game for the past three or four years,” Graham said.

“When we go to practice matches and I see girls like Sarah Klau, Maddy Turner, and Helen Housby I almost forget that I'm here to play, not to be a fan. It's amazing.”

Based on her performance at Team Girls Cup, Vixens fans can expect Graham to shoot under pressure, inject speed, and set up her teammates with her court craft.

“I think my read of the play is one of my strengths, and also movement,” she said. “I feel like when I'm playing at my best, I’m moving a lot, creating that space for other players, and also demanding the ball.”

It might not be what she planned, but 2024 is shaping up to be Graham’s biggest year yet.

“Every day is just full of netball, which I love. It's been such an amazing experience so far,” Graham said.

“I am so stoked to be playing in the SSN, and especially for my hometown team, the Vixens.”

The Vixens begin their 2024 campaign against the Melbourne Mavericks at John Cain Arena on Sunday 14 April.

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