By Special Invitation

The 2019 Mellor Olsson Academy Games saw Queensland’s Marlin Coast Academy Team join the competition by special invitation for the second time – a great chance to continue to take on and learn from our SA great.

With Adelaide experiencing sunny days across the Mellor Olsson Academy Games held in early October, the stage was set for our special guests from Queensland to join the competition.

Heather McLaren, Coach and President of the Marlin Coast Academy says they really enjoyed their second opportunity to participant in the three-day event among some of South Australia’s best emerging talent.

“A highlight of the experience has been that the girls have been able to play other teams from a different state. Therefore, the netball is a little bit different from ours, so we came up against different strategies, different skill work and skill levels,” said Heather.

It took some getting used to, but Heather says she’s happy with the way the team adjusted to South Australia.

“Our girls have really warmed to the occasion and played really well. From game one to game eight they definitely improved.”

“We like to play a short, sharp game and we find that in South Australia it’s a longer game, so we had to adjust to that. Slowly but surely, we took that onboard and were able to put some wins together. That has given everyone more confidence in their own ability and as a team.”

Heather says she was really impressed by the calibre of the South Australian competition.

“The quality of the competition here is very high and that’s why we bring our girls here – to get that experience. We need to be able to step up. Our players need to be able to improve, to be able to take knocks and bumps and bounce back. We have been able to do this. This will give the players more confidence to take back to their own clubs.”

“We feel very honoured to be able to come and compete at something like this, especially in another state. In Queensland all we only have the U16 state competition, so this is a great experience for everyone.”

2019 was the first year of the competition’s new and improved format, which now includes a skills session day on day one of games. To enhance player development, particularly in the lead up to State Trials, participants took part in nine on and off-court sessions with specialist coaches. Coaches included specialists across the Adelaide Thunderbirds, Premier League, ANL and state teams.

Heather says they have engaged in similar experiences previously and have found this an excellent opportunity.

“Our girls get the experience of different coaches that they have never come across before and different learning skills.”

“They also had to work with many different players they have never met before and they had to be able to slot in. This is a great experience because this is what we do in our academy. We put them on the court with players that they have never played with before and they have to be able to adjust immediately, especially in a selection environment. I think it is a great idea.”

“The sessions are really valuable to the players and the coaches as well. We get the opportunity to network and see how other coaches operate with different skills.”

The team says the opportunity to come to South Australia was also a great experience for the academy’s two umpires who joined the team. They were able to also umpire finals – a great achievement to also have under their belts.

Overall Marlin Coast were really pleased with their experience in South Australia and Netball SA Workforce Manager, Roz Fraser, says they are a wonderful invitational team to host.

“This was the second time that Marlin Coast have participated in the Mellor Olsson Academy Games and we were delighted they wanted to return and participate in our newly formatted program,” said Roz.

The Academy program is about developing players and while Netball SA is committed to developing their own, it is also a great opportunity to open our doors to include players from other States which not only benefits them but also exposes our own players to something different.”