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We caught up with our Lightning athletes that recently represented Victoria at the National Netball Championships, Grace Markovic, Charlee Kemp, Montaya Sardi and Emma Winfield

Were there Covid challenges in your preparation/during the tournament?

Grace: Covid was on our minds 100% of the time, in the week leading up we had to have a RAT test before training and leaving for the airport as well as wearing masks to VNL, university and all family gatherings. We also were unable to talk to or hug our families who watched on in the crowd until the last game in order to stay Covid safe.
Charlee: Covid challenges leading up to the tournament involved not having full squads at training due to people isolating. During the tournament we were in a ‘covid bubble’ meaning we weren’t able to interact with anyone outside of the team. This made it hard not being able to speak to our families and supporters after games. 

Montaya: Covid challenged us in many ways by not always having a full squad at training, also having to be extra cautious at the tournament. During Nationals both the 17U and 19U teams were in a covid bubble which then lead to not being able to interact with our family members.


Did you have to overcome any setbacks/injuries in the lead up?

Emma: I had to overcome a little hip strain but I was able to get on top of it by having support from the Lightning and Victorian physiotherapists. This helped manage my pain.


Did you have any pre-game routines/superstitions?

Grace: Pre-game always involved pumping the tunes in the minibus and playing a game before we got stuck into the warmup. For me, I always eat one jelly bean and 2 sips of water before heading out onto court!
Emma: My pre-game routine was to have a banana before my game and complete my hip stretches 


How was it having to play 2 games in one day? How did you prepare in between games?
Charlee: It was hard backing up games however we were lucky that we had plenty of fresh legs to rotate through. The gap between games went pretty quickly. We did hot-cold showers for recovery in between games and also had pretty strict eating times for post game snacks, lunch and pre game snacks. We also had physio treatment and team chats in this gap also which filled the time. 
Montaya: Throughout the tournament it was hard to back up two games a day but luckily we had a squad of 12, which meant we could rotate players on and off. In between the games it went very quickly, but during this time we got treated by the physios, ate food to fuel up for the next game and hot/cold showers for recovery.  
Emma: Playing 2 games in a day was not only physically tiring, but mentally tiring. To prepare in between games we would complete recovery which included stretching, foam rolling, eating and even sleeping


What did you do in your down time?

Grace: Everyday was pretty much scheduled down to the last minute. When we weren’t getting ready it was either massage, treatment, video analysis, eating or napping!
Charlee: Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave the accommodation much due to Covid, however, we went on team walks and just hung out with the other girls. We also watched other 19U games or the 17U games on live on Kayo. 
Montaya: Seeing as we couldn’t leave the accommodation due to covid, most of the time the girls would hang out and just relax as a team, we also tried to complete a 1000 piece puzzle  
Emma: In my down time I would either chill in the room with the other girls, sleep or play card games 


Did you prepare any differently for your finals knowing that you’d played the teams earlier in the week?
Charlee: We were able to watch our previous games back and critique little things which helped us prepare better going into the game. Not only what we could improve in our game, but what we could stop in the opposition’s game. 
Montaya: We were able to watch our games back on Kayo, to see what we could do differently. But also watching the team we were playing to know what we were coming up against and what we could do to beat them !    
Emma: I did the same preparation all week but for finals i tended to become more focused on my energy levels meaning I was making sure I was eating when I was hungry and drinking plenty of water and hydralyte


How do the games compare with playing VNL?

Grace: The standard and intensity was a massive step up, the bodies we came up against were massive and the expectation to play out each quarter without any lapses in concentration or intensity was huge! In saying that, the crowd was also bigger and louder which created an electric environment that I have never experienced in VNL
Charlee: The games were much more physical, the bodies were much bigger and stronger than what we compete against in VNL. They were only 10 minute quarters compared to regular 15 minute quarters which gave us a lot more fitness to sprint out hard for the full 10 mins. 


What is the biggest learning from your experience at Nationals?
Emma: My biggest learning from Nationals was how important recovery is and how important it is to check up on others if they look flat during the week to ensure that they feel supported.


How great was it having the live stream on Kayo, did you have many people watching from home?

Grace: It was so amazing having every game live streamed on Kayo! I had lots of family and friends watching from home as well as coaches and team-mates from my local clubs. It was also great to be able to watch the 17U games back at the hotel as we were unable to watch live due to Covid protocols.

Charlee: The Kayo live stream was so good for family and friends back at home. I had heaps of people back in Melbourne cheering me on through the screen. It was nice to know that I had the support from everyone whether they were there in Tassy or at home. 


How did it feel to represent Victoria?

Grace: Pulling on the navy dress for the first time felt so surreal, the opportunity to represent the junior netballers of Victoria was amazing and a very proud moment.
Charlee: It honestly felt surreal. Playing for Victoria was always a dream, and for it to become a reality it just didn’t feel real. It was an honour and privilege to put on the Victorian uniform and represent the state and all the other netballers back home. 
Montaya: It honestly felt amazing to represent Victoria. It always has been a dream of mine and for it to finally come true just didn’t feel real. it was an honour to wear the Victorian uniform and I was so privileged and proud to be given this opportunity.
Emma: It was an honour to represent Victoria, it’s a surreal experience and it encourages me to try out every year


What was a highlight from the week?

Grace: My highlight was definitely being presented our bronze medal at the end of the tournament, coming off almost 2 years of no netball, the team were all proud of our podium finish!
Charlee: Obviously winning the bronze medal! But after the final game, being able to run up and hug our families and friends would have to be another highlight of the week, after seeing them in the crowd all week but not being able to talk to them or touch them!!

Montaya: Apart from winning a silver medal and making the grand final, running up and seeing my family and friends after not being able to touch or talk to them for a whole week was a highlight from the week. Knowing that they had been there all along and supporting me was just amazing!
Emma: The highlight from the week was winning the semi final, because this was a very big game for us to ensure our spot in finals and to lose to South Australia in the normal rounds and beat them in the semi final felt so good


Besides winning a medal, what has been your favourite part of Nationals?

Grace: My favourite part has been getting to spend a whole week with some amazing netballers! We all got super close over the week and getting to play alongside girls with so much talent and dedication to netball was awesome!
Charlee: Definitely the friendships that were made with my teammates. They will be friendships that will last a life time!!
Montaya: Besides playing for Victoria and representing my state the best part of nationals was making memories and friends for life. The on and off court moments spent with the team was one of the best parts.

Emma: My favourite part of Nationals are the little memories you take away with it, this could either be the singing in the bus rides to the stadium, the change room pump ups and the chats in physio room.

Photos provided by AndrewZ Photography

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