Connections key for Nelson’s continued success

WHEN it comes to player growth over the past couple of seasons, it is hard to look past the development of Collingwood Magpies goal shooter Shimona Nelson. The Jamaican goaler started out her Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) career at the Adelaide Thunderbirds before taking an opportunity with the Magpies in 2019, and has developed at a rate of knots since then to continuously wreak havoc under the post for the black and white.

Still only 22-years-old, Nelson has shown no signs of stopping and continues to be an aerial and accurate threat at the post. Despite a couple of trying seasons with the Magpies, Nelson really stepped up her game in season 2021, exuding an air of confidence as the Magpies have found much more success after a shaky 2020 season.

“I think it was more organised and structured (this year), compared to last year where we had a lot of disruption with players and stuff, we didn’t really know what the combinations are,” Nelson told the Centre Pass Podcast. “I think this year, we actually had the opportunity to start early and make and build on those combinations to execute it on court. I think through that, like us working through the offseason on those combinations actually made a huge difference.”

“Just understanding how each player plays and understanding them as a person, because when it gets heated in the moment, they are gonna say stuff – but then it’s based off professional feedback, it’s not personal. So just getting to know those little bits of other girls actually helped heaps.”

While improved connections and additional support on court paid dividends this season, the Magpies also had a new head coach at the helm for 2021 – and onwards – as former assistant coach Nicole ‘Richo’ Richardson took the helm, assisted by Kate Upton

“Richo… I’ll say, like, I can’t use words to express being around Richo, like it’s different,” Nelson said. “Prior to me coming into netball, I’ve always had male coaches, so having a female coach that you can actually relate to is actually really good.”

“I think my relationship with Richo and Kate has built tremendously over the past few months around uncertainties, and I think that’s where my respect and caring and honesty has gotten a bit deeper for them as coaches.”

“They express their feelings and, for me, that’s something that I treasure. If a coach can do that to a player, then that player is going to go on court and deliver for them.”

Deliver she did, with some impressive performances throughout the season. Nelson piled on a whopping 614 goals at an incredible 94 per cent accuracy across her 14 games, only beaten for volume by fellow Jamaican goaler Jhaniele Fowler. While the relationship off the court developed, the coaching support on game day was still game-first with Nelson describing the coaching pair as “ruthless”. 

“Being around them is good, but on court – that’s a different story!” Nelson laughed. “They are quite ruthless, in a good way because they know what we’re capable of – so if we’re not getting it done, we’re going to have a conversation as to why it’s not happening, and we’re going to go out there on court, we’re going to execute it again, and again until it actually works.”

“But if it’s not working, it’s easy to talk and be like, okay, look, it’s not working. Let’s try this.”

Nelson’s individual confidence appeared to have stepped up a notch this season, while her connection and confidence in goaling counterpart Gabby Sinclair also rose seeing the two combine seamlessly week after week.

“I think what changed last season for Gabs and I is that we actually made the effort in off-season to work on our combinations,” Nelson explained. “Two weeks of offseason and then I went straight into working and getting my skills right, and Gabs was a part of that.”

“I think her and myself, being able to get those combinations and the work done early was a really good thing because like once you know preseason, we know where we stand together with our combination and how we play and trust each other. I think us doing the work early helped us to build what we have so far and continue to build on what we have.”

While the ever-changing landscape of COVID in 2021 caused issues for the Magpies, forcing constant movement between states and “living in quarantine since we left for Adelaide”, Nelson explained that the team has grown through the constant adversity, facing it as a team by “[having] each other’s back no matter what”.

“This year was definitely harder, I’m not going to lie. Last year we knew where we were going. We knew that it was going to be a condensed season, we knew that we could still have a typical training day, but not as often because we had to play during the week.”

“I think we grew through the adversity together, I think that has got us closer and that’s helped us to understand each other a bit more in the hard times, we’re there for each other. I think that transferred out on court as well.”

“At the end of the day, we have a job to do. But the way I look at it is that I’m going to play for the girls out there because we do need each other on and off the court. So I think that was my mentality throughout the rest of the season. Like, I know it was gonna be hard. But when we sat together, it didn’t seem as hard.”

Nelson finished with a promise; that we can expect big things from her in the coming years.

“I think you can expect a better version of me as a player and as a person because that’s something that I genuinely want to keep building on,” she explained. “But don’t quote me just yet, I’ve still got to put in the work! So once I put the work in, work with my players out in front, I can definitely get that done. So yeah, that’ll be me for next season.”


Picture credit: Collingwood Magpies Netball via Twitter

For the full interview, tune into this week’s edition of the Centre Pass Podcast.

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