Grand final mission: Jets aiming high with new talent
FOUR valuable newcomers, a core of returning experience and added motivation having made last year's grand final.
The USQ Ipswich Jets are focused on success preparing to launch their 2021 Hart Sapphire Series campaign against the Bull Sharks at Morayfield on Sunday.
Having been head coach since the Jets were formed in 2019, Tracey Jeanes-Fraser has high expectations in Queensland's premier netball competition.
"It's feeling like it's a progression for us and we are very confident that we will be in that grand final again this year as long as we are ticking all those boxes and prepared to extend ourselves both as coaches and as well as athletes,'' she said.
"We'll certainly be in for a good season.
"That grand final experience for us (losing 62-47 to Brisbane Cougars last year) was good because we just stopped breathing for a minute and they took that minute and ran with it.''
It was a valuable netball lesson for the Jets having achieved so much but just falling short in the major match.
With new teams QUT and Northern Rays joining this year's elite competition, the USQ Jets will have a trip to Townsville the following weekend.
The Jets also have a 2020 grand final rematch in round three against the Cougars, providing plenty of incentive to fire up after 12 weeks of training.
That match will be livestreamed from 3.35pm on May 2.
Other Sapphire Series matches of the round will be livestreamed exclusively on the QT website each week. Look out for more details on the livestreaming schedule starting with this Sunday's game between QUT and Cougars.
As the first 2021 USQ Jets game looms large, Jeanes-Fraser welcomes the enthusiasm added from newcomers Beryl Friday, Lilly Cubby, Abigail Houston and Kaitlin Pollock.
Goal attack/goal shooter Friday played for the Wildcats in 2020 after being a member of the original Tigers side. She has played in a number of winning Firebirds teams.
"She comes with a huge amount of experience to help with Charlie Bell (the Jets regular goal shooter),'' Jeanes-Fraser said.
Versatile attacker Cubby was recently named in the Queensland 19's squad, also having previous Wildcats links.
"She's very, very classy on the court so we're excited to see what she's going to bring to our game,'' the coach said.
Houston, who can also play goal attack, goal shooter or on the wing, is also a state 19's representative. She played for the Bull Sharks last season.
"She's very intelligent,'' Jeanes-Fraser said of the Biomedical Science student.
"She's a very tenacious young girl . . . she's dangerous out on the court.''
Wing defence, goal defence Pollock played in last year's Jets Rubies side recovering from an ACL injury.
"This is her first time back into a Sapphires environment because she's a mum. She's our mum of the family and of the team,'' Jeanes-Fraser said.
"She's very deserving of taking our next step back to the Sapphires.''
The quartet of newcomers join established Jets players Charlie Bell, Stephanie O'Brien, Brooke Hams, Mikeeley Hoch, Siobhan Shirlaw and Bridey Condren, who contributed immensely to last year's historic minor premiership.
"That's exciting for us,'' Jeanes-Fraser said, having a mix of seasoned Jets performers and an inject of fresh talent.
"Our frontline is looking really good.
"Both Beryl and Lilly are long shooters so we'll be able to really mix it up and play around this year.''
Jets Rubies Sam Ryan, newcomer Hana Barreto and Naomi Solomona were also part of the pre-season Sapphire's squad preparation.
Former Ipswich Flyers grand final-winning coach Nicole Grant is assisting Jeanes-Fraser this season.
Jeanes-Fraser was yet to name her captain and leadership group.
However, she is backing her hard-working combination to deliver in the expanded Sapphires Series competition.
"The girls have been doing a really good pre-season,'' the head coach said.
"We've had a couple of really strong matches against the men and a couple of the other Sapphires rivals in Wildcats and QUT.
"All the girls are really stepping up.''
She said every player in last year's grand final had shown in the pre-season "they want to go another level''.
"Everything is looking very promising,'' Jeanes-Fraser said.
The Jets Rubies also open their new season against the Bull Sharks at Morayfield - in their match following the Sapphires encounter.
HART Sapphire series: Sunday (1pm) - USQ Jets v Bull Sharks at Morayfield stadium.
HART Ruby series: Sunday (3pm) - USQ Jets v Bull Sharks at Morayfield stadium.