We chatted to goal shooter Shimona Nelson about the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season.
The 2022 season has come to a close, with the Pies overcoming everything thrown at them for a finals berth last week.
Shimona Nelson reflected on the season at large.
Tell us a little bit about how the Pies have navigated the challenges of the season.
We've navigated the challenge of this season by probably not just being caught up in what's happening and just take it as another opportunity to build on us as players, and more than just players. I think the challenges this year actually pushed us to be better for each other and not just for ourselves. Like, even though it's netball, and it's a team sport for us, I feel it's gotten more, and past just a team sport. Players have players' back, it's more like family, as if I had my sister's back. My sister has my back. My mum has my back - that's Richo and Kate! But it's more family-like, like stuff does go sideways, but we know how to handle that, we know how to push through it. We handled it and yeah, I think that's how we got through this season.
How about the moment that you realised that we had a real chance at finals?
The moment I realised we had a chance at finals was crazy. I knew once the whistle went and I saw the score. I was like yep, we're in, and I went straight - and I'm pretty sure the photo showed it - I jumped straight at Sophie, and she was like 'are we in?' and I was like 'yeah, we are girl!' Like, even though we lost it was more of like a - I don't know how to explain it, like it was very good win - or a very good loss because we made it, and I was thinking, 'oh, we've been through a lot', like we've been through a lot for the season through COVID, having some of our players and Richo out. It was tough, and to be able to make it to the finals. Even though we lost, we made it, it happened. We've made it work with whatever challenge was thrown at us. It was just mind blowing. Like even though we lost that day, it felt like a very good win because there was a lot of stuff that was thrown at us, we didn't know how we would have gotten out of there. But we came out at the end, realising that it's not that bad. Like, things could be worse, but we got through it and it was an amazing feeling.
What do you think changed in the second half of the season?
What changed in the second half of the season was us getting those combinations and having those conversations. I feel like us being so open and honest with each other, I think that's what made us click more, like being honest with each other. If you don't understand a set play, you're open and you're confident to say that to someone else that's working with you in that area, and just voicing your opinions and knowing that your opinion is been heard and not like you've been shut out. I think that's what kind of got us to where we are. When push came to shove, we're able to manipulate and work with it and know that we all have each other's back and I feel like those two things, that's what made the difference, having those hard conversations and just rolling with the punches and not overthinking stuff. Go with the flow and trust in that everyone has each other's back on the court.
Is there anyone that you think really stood out or stood up on or off the court?
To be honest, that's hard. I feel like everyone stood up to the task with everything thrown at us, I reckon we stood up tall. We stood tall with everything like, It's hard to single out anyone because we had each other's back. We all went through it, like, we were there for each other to be honest. I feel like it's everyone. We all stood out.
Away from the group's development, how did you find your own season?
I feel like for me, I reckon I have worked really hard in getting my mindset most of all and my body in the position where it is today for me to produce on court. It was hard at first, but I was like, 'I want to take this on, I want to have this challenge' to be like, when it's the grind in moments of the game, like I'm able to push through, I'm able to present for the team. I feel like that's where the little extra boosts came from for me to be going hard and stuff and not backing down, like not taking shortcuts. I'd just be like 'oh, it's hard, I can't do it', without even trying. I feel like this year, I stepped up to the plate and I felt like also the girls pushed me to step up to the plate because I believe, and they all know, they have so much confidence in me. I just can't let them down because once a team has so much confidence in you, the only thing you have to do is just pick it up. Like, you have the easy bit where you just have to do the work - not saying it's easy, but like, you know, the easy and fun bit where you just get yourself together, watching your videos, knowing what you have to do, you get on with it, you work on it, if you need to do extras, like it's there for you to do. Especially for me, my hands. That was a big thing coming into netball. That was a huge thing for me to be able to rip those balls in, whenever. It might be a bad pass, but I can still make it look good, that's just like the strength of me (now). I think that's what, you know, kind of pulled everyone together to know that, oh, she's actually stepped up to the plate, like she definitely wants that spot. And I feel like that's probably for me, that's what tipped me over the edge to be like you know, I'm gonna take it with both hands.
How did this year compare to past seasons?
Firstly, 2018 when I first came here, I wasn't half as strong as I am today. 2021, that was my breakthrough year where I noticed like I can actually get this done, I can actually be a better goal shooter, I can actually be strong for my feeders out in front. So I feel like just those little things motivated me to keep working hard and to not let what naysayers say get to me, because that does sometimes play a little bit of a role. But then like, having this team and these girls and the coaches around you makes you feel like you're unstoppable. So you're willing to go the extra mile to do what you need in order to be that better person or to be that better player, and I feel like I've gained so much in being a better person first and foremost, before being a better player, because for me, being a better person out there, that means I have relationships with everyone on court, I'm willing to go out there and take the hits for them. And I feel like that's what pushed me to the edge to be like 'I need to get this done, I need to work hard, I need to get my hands stronger'. I need to ensure that my entire body; mind, soul, spirit, everything is on, tip-top shape. So that when things get hard, I don't crumble, like I stand up to it. And I feel like that's what made my season this year better.
What was your favourite moment from the season?
I must say Round 14. Like, that was - it was emotional, but I loved it. I don't know why I loved it, maybe because it was so emotional, I feel like the emotions were good and bad but then we fought through it and then we came out successful. Like it wasn't the result of the game, but like the feeling of it, how we celebrated it, how we celebrated a loss like we'd won. Like, that means so much, because we've gone through so much, no one knows what we had to do to get here or the emotions and breakdowns we've been through. I think that's what made Round 14 so special this year for us, like you could even see it on Geva's face, when she was on the phone with Richo, like, we could not contain that emotion because we've been through so much and we weren't gonna let this opportunity slide and I feel that's what that game meant to me this year.