It has been a wild ride to get where Macy Gardner is today, after signing with the Firebirds in 2020 to be part of the main squad, then to go back and spend time as a training partner for the Firebirds. In that time, Gardner has grown plenty, as a person, and as a netballer.
Gardner made her Suncorp Super Netball debut back in 2019 against the Sunshine Coast Lighting and she was given one of the hardest tasks in netball in trying to stop Laura Langman.
“It's a while back now when I think about it,” Gardner told Edge of the Crowd.
"It was extremely daunting but super exciting, I think I was told I was going on against Laura Langman and she's probably one of my netball idols in terms of like who I would like to replicate my game on.
“It was just going out there and being fearless and you've really got nothing to lose and you want to prove that you can play at that level.
"I suppose for me and my journey so far at SSN has been pretty inconsistent in terms of my game time and you know being involved in it. So, I just would love for 2023 to be a bit more of a consistent year, having a good training base and being able to push to play."
In 2020, Gardner got her first taste of being a Suncorp Super Netball player, gaining her first professional netball contract.
“It was really good in terms of, you know, getting an opportunity to get a contract in the actual team is really hard to do.
“There are only 80 contracts in the whole of the SSN which is not very many for the amount of girls that play netball. I guess that year was very different in itself for netball, but also for the whole world with COVID.
"It was just very interesting but also it was just a good starting point, understanding what it takes to be a professional athlete and compete at that level.
“You need to really work on your skill and your craft and you need to be able to turn up and back up your performances. I guess as I've matured now, knowing those things, hopefully will set me up for next year.”
At the end of 2020, Gardner wasn’t offered a contract in the squad of 10 and went back to a training partner. She turned the negative into a positive and went back to the Sapphire Series to work on her game.
“It's never over until you say it's over. The biggest thing for me was I need to go back and look at my game and what I have to do to ensure that I can show my value and show my worth and that my game is vital to this club.
“I think it's a setback, but it's only a setback or a negative thing if you make it that and I just didn't want to have that mindset of poor me it was more 'that's okay, this is an opportunity for me to work on my craft and work on other things outside of netball as well and take on that feedback and just work on it'.
“For me this year whenever my coaches gave me feedback or anything like that, I just tried to implement it in my game and I was fortunate enough that Bryn [Brynley Abad, Head of Performance] gave me a call and said that had been offered a contract for next year and I was just super excited that you know, the hard work has been done but it's not over, so just continuing to build.”
Since then, she’s been plying her trade for the North Brisbane Cougars with Gardner having played alongside the likes of Mia Stower and Ruby Bakewell-Doran as well as the other two new signings at the Firebirds in Ash Unie and Remi Kamo.
With Stower and Gardner first met back when they were 12 and now, just a few years on, they’ll both be fully contracted players for the Queensland Firebirds once again in 2023.
“We were 12 years old and then we started playing netball together when we were 17 when we both made the Queensland Under 17 team. I guess it's cool like being able to play with your friends. We've become very, very close and going through our netball careers and journeys together is exciting.
“We all start and end at different points and leave each other and then come back together. For next season, all of us going through a similar pathway all at different times, having that connection together is cool and now being able to play at the professional level all together will be exciting.”
The chance to swap the red and black dress of the Cougars for the purple dress of the Firebirds and the chance to build on those connections made at Sapphire Series level is something that excites Gardner for 2023 and beyond.
"I guess it's a comfort zone as well like going into the professional environment already knowing and playing with girls that you've been with before.
“It's kind of comforting in a sense but also it's something we can really build on and you know, we had that trust, loyalty and connection already.
“So going into the professional environment and building on those things again, will be really good and I guess combining that with all the other birdies girls as well will be really exciting because there are some really experienced girls that have played at the international level.
"Gretz [Gretel Bueta], Rav [Kim Ravaillion] and Gabi [Simpson], and even Rubes [Bakewell-Doran] and Nelly [Donnell Wallam] getting a taste of that Diamonds squad experience this year, being able to combine all together will be exciting.
Getting the call that she was a contracted player for the Firebirds in 2023 was a surreal moment for Gardner and icing on the cake for her was to find out both Unie and Kamo both earned themselves contracts as well.
“I was a little bit in shock. A bit surreal in terms of you hope it's going to happen but you just never quite sure and it's not really in your hands like you try to do as much as you can or everything right to give yourself the best opportunity but you just never know.
“When Bryn gave me the call, I was just super excited. It just proves that if you want it badly enough, it will come.
“So, I was just super excited, and to be able then to hear that Remi and Ash got a contract as well showing that, you know, if you go back into that pathway, you still have an opportunity to you know, play at the elite level again.
"Like Ash [Unie] has had a setback as well, she had an ACL and didn't get offered another contract and she went back and played in the state league, it just shows that everyone's journey is different. But if you work hard enough, your opportunity will come again.
The Firebirds have a new coach in 2023 with Bec Bulley taking the reins and the Firebirds' eyes are on the prize come pre-season in October.
“I've spoken to her a few times on the phone but from what I have heard and everything that she said to me, we're here to win.
"We've got to build a great group and great connection and you know, the hard work starts now. It doesn't start when preseason starts, it starts and doesn't start when the season start, it starts now.
“We'll get together as a collective in October and set out our standards and our goals and just work hard. I think it's what will be the focus for 2023 and putting out good performances and getting the right outcomes."
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