One of Suncorp Super Netball’s most passionate and committed captains leads by both word and deed. Rather loud words, usually. For proof, just tune into one of Kate Moloney’s famous addresses to the Vixens’ huddle (amusingly, she can’t bear to watch them on replay), or listen to her vocal urgings on court.
“Something that comes really naturally to me is talking - ask anyone in the team!’’ laughs Moloney, the second-year skipper.
“But I think to be a good leader you need to have a really good balance, and for me it’s trying to use my voice, but also trying to go out there and lead by example on the court.’’
Appointed captain at 24 after Madi Robinson’s defection to the Magpies, Moloney had been introduced to the proud Victorian netball culture by two of the greats: Sharelle McMahon and Bianca Chatfield. The latter remains a key mentor, and example.
“In my first year at the club (2013) I think I was three or four years younger than anyone else in the group, and ‘B' really took me under her wing and showed me the way on and off the court,’’ she recalls.
“I see her as the ultimate leader. She had a real way of bringing everyone together and she’s someone that I’ve definitely looked up to in that leadership role, and someone I continue to learn from, even today.
“It’s such an honour to walk out and wear that navy dress. Netball in Victoria has such a successful history and to have people before me like Bianca and Sharelle who have built this amazing culture for the club, and to be able to step into that and take it over is a massive honour.
"But I’m still learning every day, and hopefully I can do half as good a job as the people before me in leading this club.’’
The Moloney way is to empower and encourage those around her and share responsibility, for leadership all over the court is the key to success. The three-Test Diamond was told early on that she would never know the answer to everything, so to make sure to surround herself with good people.
One of those, her close friend Liz Watson describes a player who sets the example in every way, while never putting herself above her teammates - instead, bringing them with her, and happily sharing the load.
“You just listen to Kate’s chats to us in our huddles: they’re always so passionate and so ‘we’re doing this for each other, we’re doing this for the team, we’re doing this for the Vixens’ and the Vixens’ family and the Vixens’ way’,’’ says Watson.
“She’s definitely the heart and soul of that and really drives that, and keeps reminding us that we’re here for the Vixens and the fans and netball in Victoria, it’s not just about us in this moment.’’
Which brings us back to those speeches; the ones after time-outs or quarter breaks that the TV cameras capture so vividly. A recent example, said with feeling: “We push, give absolutely everything we can. All right, we’ve got this. Girls, we do it together. So. Fearless. Dynamic. Brutal. Let’s go. Work hard. Vix on three…!’’
Moloney jokes that she will have to keep a closer eye on those intrusive cameras, and fast-forwards match replays to avoid watching herself. “I hate them. I can’t watch them. I cringe. It’s so bad!’’ she squirms. “Most of the time I don’t know what I’m going to say - it’s kind of whatever comes out at the time.
“Look, it’s one of those things that’s in the heat of the game. Hopefully, most of the girls like listening to it more than I do.’’
So, that voice. How far can it carry?
“Yeah. It’s a bit too loud, a bit too much!’’ Moloney quips. “Kadie-Ann Dehaney, she really struggles to lift her voice, so I’ve been trying to teach her, but it obviously doesn’t come as naturally to some other people to yell. I just thought that was part of everyone.’’
Perhaps not, but, in some other respects, Moloney is something of a quiet achiever. More than 70 games into her Vixens’ career, the captaincy choice of both her peers and coach Simone McKinnis has already been vindicated.
“Kate represents very much what we are as a team, and that’s about that team-first mentality,’’ McKinnis says. “She will just give everything she’s got for the team: on court, off court, she will fight and scrap. She’s just got a huge heart for her club and her teammates.
“It just means so much to her. There’s no difference between match play and training; it’s ‘you go as hard as you can for as long as you can at training’, and she sets that standard every time she steps out. There’s no half-pace, or never anything less than 100 per cent go with Kate.’’
So who are the hardest Vixens to captain? “Aaaah … probably Liz. She’s just the toughest one,’’ says Moloney, tongue firmly in cheek.
“Or maybe MJ” (Kumwenda), I don’t think she knows what she’s going to do on court and so none of us know, but that’s what makes her such a good player. Joey (Weston) is a bit of a hothead out on court, so we love Joey. You never know what she’s going to do out there, either.
“But, really, the thing is that every single player has so much passion for this group, and you know they’re doing what they think is the best thing for the team. This is probably the hardest-working group of girls I’ve ever been a part of, so they really do make my job easy.”