Eleanor’s excited about history-making Mavericks

TODAY marks the start of a new era in the Suncorp Super Netball, with the Melbourne Mavericks making their official competition debut later today.

One of the team’s biggest stars Eleanor Cardwell has enjoyed every part of the process leading up to today’s game.

“It’s been great,” Cardwell said. “I’ve been here since the start of February. I think that all the girls look super fit. I’ve never seen a group of players look so fit in my life.

“It’s been hard. It’s been a good old slog, and obviously we’ve had a lot of major injuries this season, so that’s made it that little bit harder in the pre season, but the girls are coming together nicely, ready for the first game.”

She admitted that for the most part, the fundamentals have not been too different so far between her preseason at the Thunderbirds last year and her first one at the Mavericks.

“Obviously Tracey (Neville) was there last year anyway, so she probably had a bit of a say in the plan of what was going on in preseason, and she might have brought some of that stuff into this preseason,” Cardwell said.

“I’ve had Tracey since 2012, so I kind of know what that preseason is looking like. It’s always going to be super, super tough, and a lot of stuff about building connections. The only thing that’s probably been different is all the connections need to be built in this team. There’s probably been a lot more emphasis around that and trying to each other and each other’s styles.”

Despite everything that has been thrown at her side this preseason – including some major injuries to two key stars – Cardwell had some fighting words for anyone wanting to doubt the Mavericks this season.

“I mean, they can underestimate us if they want,” Cardwell said. “We’re just always going to come out with fight. We’ve got a group of netballers who are incredibly talented and they’re really took this opportunity.

“This group of girls are ones who want to put themselves in uncomfortable positions. They don’t just want to sit on a bench and just sit there and watch someone else play. They want to fight for that place.”

“It’s going to be really exciting to see how we grow this season, and the connections are still building and each week they’re just going to get stronger and stronger. So very, very exciting.”

She also said that the decision to switch from Adelaide pink to the light blue of the Mavericks “was pretty hard. It wasn’t just an easy decision that I made overnight.”

“It’s one that took me time,” Cardwell said. “I had to write down the pros and cons of each club and what I really thought was going to help my netball and help improve my netball and not be just the easy decision, and try and challenge myself in different ways off the court as well as on the court.

“I think this is the decision I made that’s just the best one for me and the means I can continue learning and growing as a person and as a netballer.”

However, she also admitted head coach Neville was a pretty influential part of her decision.

“I think if there was any other coach coming to the new team, I probably wouldn’t have come across,” Cardwell said. “I’ve had her since 2012 and I’ve learned something new every single year. The fact that that’s still continuing is incredible, and I know that she’s one of the best coaches in the world, so why wouldn’t I want to be coached by her?”

Speaking of the Thunderbirds, 2023 was a big year for Cardwell, both on a domestic and an international front.

After pausing for a moment of thought, she ultimately said that her highlight of the year was either winning the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final or securing the silver medal at the Netball World Cup.

“There was a lot of highs of last year and it was a bit overwhelming at the time,” Cardwell said. “I couldn’t believe it was all happening and it was like a dream. Just a crazy old 2023.”

Cardwell also feels like England is finally closing the gap in international netball between themselves and the top two nations of New Zealand and Australia.

“I think we’ve definitely closed the gap with New Zealand. Obviously it’s very competitive, who’s going to win in that game?”

“With Australia, I think now we need to close the gap in finals netball. We close the gap in like a everyday game, a test match, whatever, and I think now it’s just our mental resilience and how we can bring something new in finals.

“It’s exciting to see where this group can come and with the English league as well, they’re becoming professional, hopefully next year. Having that as well will hopefully give us an extra boost, to really bring it to them when we next get into a final with them.”

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