Watson looks to have name in bright lights

WEARING the green and gold dress is something most young netballers dream of growing up.

First picking up a netball in NetSetGo and making it all the way through the Netball Victoria pathway, even being recognised at a national level. Tara Watson started playing netball because her sister Shanae played and Tara loved watching her.

Their brother Blake grew up playing tennis, but has since picked up footy as his sport of choice. The Watson family would love just going to each other’s games and watch.

One day, Tara’s mum placed her in the formerly known Netta program when she was 5-years-old as they needed a few extra fill-ins.

“Ever since then, I’ve just loved it. Love the game, love the people,” Watson told Rookie Me Central.

She was selected into the Vixens academy in 2022 and 2023 learning from the best of the best in Simone McKinnis and Di Honey, the Melbourne Vixens head and assistant coaches.

Watson playing for Victoria in 2022 as a top age under 17s player (Image: via Tara Watson/Instagram)

Watson’s learning experience in the Academy was unlike any other being exposed to the direct high performance environment amongst some younger and more experienced names.

“It was definitely a big step from what I was used to. Just the professionalism in the environment and everything,” she said.

“I was extremely nervous because it’s the Vixens coaches and everything. It was very intense, but they made it so much fun. You always felt comfortable, and I loved it.”

Her experience in the Vixens Academy will create a swifter transition into following the footsteps of her idols Kate Moloney and Liz Watson.

Another Watson is looking to take her game to another level and follow the footsteps of the current Diamonds captain. Tara loves to watch Liz play, and even though Tara is a defensive midcourter — compared to her namesake’s more attacking midcourt role — she hopes to base her game off the world class wing attack.

Moloney’s leadership on and off the court is what caught Tara’s eye and how everyone would want to listen to Moloney even without a title. She’s known to be very vocal out on court, motivating her teammates by urging the team to perform to the Vixens standards.

Moloney began her netball career at the same association as Tara at Nillumbik Force Netball Association (formerly Diamond Creek Force Netball Association).

Watson started out at Whittlesea Football and Netball Club playing representative netball for them until under 11s. She then made the switch to the highly known and successful Diamond Creek Netball Club under the helm of experienced Stacey Gannon and Bronwyn Taylor.

Watson playing for Diamond Creek at an under 13s tournament (Image: Supplied)

Watson was with Diamond Creek until top age 17s when her career really started to take off.

She was selected as part of the Victorian under 17s state team in 2021 as bottom age athlete. It was too good to be true as the championships were cancelled due to COVID.

Watson bounced back though and was a part of the silver medal winning team the following year as vice-captain.

She was named in the AUS under 17s squad and travelled to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) being a member of the national camp.

“That is probably one of my highlights, playing with the girls, and we got into the grand final by, like, one goal, so it was very close,” she said.

“Getting selected for the AUS squad from there, I was pretty excited because I’d missed out on going to the camp the year before because of COVID.

“I was excited to finally be able to go up to the AIS.”

Watson at an AUS camp at the AIS (Image: Supplied)

Her pure determination and grit after not being selected for the under 15s state squad pushed Watson to take her game to the next level.

“Ever since then, I’ve just kept trialling, and so far I’ve made it every year since bottom age 17s. From that being selected for the AUS squad each year as well,” she said.

Watson will enter her fourth year of state  playing for the Victoria under 19s side as a top age athlete. She is currently a member of the AUS under 19s squad and will be eligible for the Netball Youth World Cup in 2025.

Her Diamond Creek coach in Taylor was a coach and player for the North East Blaze in the Victorian Netball League (VNL). Knowing Watson’s potential, Taylor reached out and asked Watson to trial for the club.

“She (Taylor) messaged me and said Blaze would like me to trial, and I was like, oh what’s it about?” Watson said.

Watson defending the ball. (Image: Netball Victoria)

“She then told me all about it and everything. She’s like, just trial, see how you go. I just tried and then they rang me and said that I got a training partner spot.”

Watson debuted with the Blaze in 2021 as a replacement player and went on to earn her first VNL contract in their under 19s side in 2022. Her natural leadership skills helped her be named as vice-captain of the side in 2023.

Taylor went on to tell Watson some more good news, letting her know of her call up into the championship side for the week.

“I just went in and all the girls were very supportive and helped me calm my nerves because I was extremely nervous. I just went out there and just played my role and did what I could,” Watson said.

She debuted against the Ariels in Round 11 and earned three MVP votes in the process.

“I was actually surprised by that, and I didn’t even look, but one of the champ girls messaged me, and I was like, oh, really.”

Watson making her champ debut with Blaze against the Ariels (Image: via Tara Watson/Instagram)

Watson was quickly accepted into the champ side and was asked to come back on a regular basis.

She lives by the quote:

Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never give up!

This demonstrates Watson’s perseverance to keep going and keep trying no matter how hard something feels or how far away the goal might feel like.

She has eyes on making an Australian Netball Championships (ANC) squad rather than a training partner position. She’s grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the 2023 Vic Fury team, but she wants to go another step further.

It’s not a matter of if, but when.

“Long-term would just be to make an SSN team and just take it to the highest level I can. Whether that be diamonds or anything, but I gotta work for it.”

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