While it wasn’t the way the Magpies wanted to finish their year, there were plenty of positives to take from their fast finish to the 2021 Super Netball season.
1. Comeback queens
Taking out MVP honours in Round 14 was a fitting finish to an incredible comeback season from Kelsey Browne.
Browne came back from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in 2020 but her return was marred when she strained the same knee in the latter half of the season. While she notched eight games, it was evident that the dynamic mid-courter never reached her full potential.
The 2021 season was a different story.
Browne recorded 29 feeds, 21 goal assists and 81.5 Nissan Net Points in Round 14 to claim MVP honours for the fourth time this year.
Browne has been back to her electric best, with her pace and netball nous allowing her to find the circle’s edge with ease.
Her connection with shooter Shimona Nelson only grew as the season wore on, with Browne finishing fourth on the league’s overall goal assist tally with 254 to her name.
While she didn’t take to the court on in the final round, Ash Brazill has put together an equally impressive comeback.
Brazill also tore her ACL in Round 8 of the 2019 AFLW season, less than one week before she was due to represent the Australian Diamonds in Netball Australia’s bushfire charity match.
Since her return, she hasn’t missed a beat.
Brazill has reminded the netball world of the impact of the wing defence, with her work rate and athleticism causing havoc for opposition attack, while her drive and command provided the Magpies with a vital link in transition.
With Diamond selection just around the corner, both Browne and Brazill have thrown their hat in the ring and given the committee something to think about.
2. On-court chemistry
The tail-end of the season provided a glimpse of just what this Collingwood group is capable of.
With the season commencing with new combinations on court, it seemed that approaching the final rounds these connections began to truly click.
Whether it was it was Jodi-Ann Ward and Geva Mentor working in perfect tandem in defence, Gabby Sinclair and Browne releasing pinpoint feeds into Nelson, or Molly Jovic working for her teammates both ways – the Magpies were on song.
The Magpies' Round 12 and 13 matches against the NSW Swifts and Queensland Firebirds demonstrated the netball they can produce.
Only time will tell what the group can achieve.
3. Hardship builds resilience
You wouldn’t have blamed those involved in the 2020 Super Netball season for thinking that they’d been involved in the most tumultuous sporting season possible.
2021 had other plans.
The Magpies played eleven games outside of Melbourne this year, with seven weeks spent across hubs in Sydney, Mooloolaba, Adelaide and Brisbane.
On more than one occasion the group were given mere hours to pack their bags, not knowing how long they would be away or even, where they were headed.
There were restrictions, lockdowns, sacrifices (and now 14 days of hard quarantine back in Melbourne) – and all were met with a united front and not a single complaint.
While the final standing on the ladder may have fallen just short, there is no understating just what this group managed to achieve in a whirlwind year.