State champions eye hat-trick of Cup successes
THE Goodna Sapphires and Ipswich Flyers have adopted different approaches heading into tonight's opening round of the 2019 Queensland Premier League SEQ Cup competition.
Defending SEQ Cup and state champions Goodna play Underwood at the same time as the Flyers face Redlands at the newly opened Queensland State Netball Centre.
The Sapphires are relaxed about their first match at 6.30pm, having retained most of their experienced players who have shared in back-to-back SEQ Cup grand final victories.
Tonight's game will be the Sapphires' first hit-out since winning the state championship against Northern Gold Coast in late October.
"It's just the same approach as last year - have fun, work hard on the court and support each other,'' Goodna captain Robyn Walsh said.
However, the Ipswich Flyers have changed their coach and welcomed some fresh additions. The Flyers, regular SEQ Cup finalists, spent the pre-season fine-tuning for another hotly contested season.
"With several new faces, it's definitely a fresh, new team but with that I believe we have a good mix of youth and experience,'' senior player Emilie McInally said.
The Sapphires welcome centre/wing attack Sarah Cullen-Reid back from maternity leave.
Donna White will not be playing this season at the purpose-built eight-court state netball centre, home of the Queensland Firebirds national league side.
"We do not do any pre-season,'' Walsh said.
"We are all heavily involved in indoor netball and the competition for this commenced eight weeks ago.
"Thursday night will be the first time we have played together since winning the State Championships.
"We are fortunate that we are all experienced players and will just pick up where we left off.''
Cullen-Reid has just competed for Queensland at the Australian championships in Melbourne, representing the state mixed open team that won the grand final.
Tayla Collie will be out for the first two weeks as she is competing in the under-23 mixed team at the Indoor Netball Nationals on the Gold Coast.
Walsh said winning the state championship at the Sunshine Coast was "truly amazing'', especially with the Sapphires only having seven players available.
"We were very happy with ourselves, however extremely happy for Goodna Netball Association,'' the Sapphires goal keeper/goal defence said.
Walsh said being defending champions added to the excitement.
"It is a good feeling and there would be nothing better than to do it again making it three in a row,'' she said.
"However we cannot get ahead of ourselves and have to take each game as it comes.
"There is always pressure as you feel that every team is out to beat us. We try not to get caught up and think about it.
"We are lucky that we are such good friends and enjoy catching up for a game of netball on a Thursday night. We try and keep things as casual as we can.''
The Sapphires beat Downey Park 55-39 in last year's SEQ Cup grand final.
That deserved victory completed an unbeaten season where they scored 699 points and only conceded 409 from 12 preliminary matches.
Last year's triumph came after Goodna also won the title in the first year of the revamped SEQ championship.
As a fine leader, Walsh completed last season after some early disruptions having knee surgery.
She's delighted to be back to guide her all-conquering netball side.
"I really enjoyed the break over the Christmas period and am looking forward to our first game,'' she said.
She appreciates being a leader.
"It's the camaraderie that we have as a team and the competitiveness we have to win and be the best we can be,'' she said.
Walsh said tonight's opponents, new team Underwood Park, were an unknown side.
"We will approach them like every other team, with respect,'' she said.
QPL SEQ Cup: Rd 1 Thursday (6.30pm) - Goodna Sapphires v Underwood; Ipswich Flyers v Redlands.
Goodna Sapphires team: Robyn Walsh, Rebecca Asquith, Tayla Collie, Beth Thornton, Renee Keith, Angela Ray, Renee Kalalo, Christine Peever, Sarah Cullen-Reid. Coach: David Eustace. Manager: Lauren Lavea.
Ipswich Flyers team: Bridget Cumming, Abbey Gallagher, Emilie McInally, Kirsty Brennan, Meg Bowmaker, Tahlia Vandenberg, Tara Bramwell, Melissa Beutel, Skye Sippel, Charisma Tuupo, Chloe Roberts. Coach: Nicole Grant. Assistant coach: Vada Brown. Manager: Melanie De Kleyn.