17/U captain ready to take her team to the top

The 2019 National Netball Championships kick off in Brisbane next week, with the 17/Us ready to take home the title. The last time NSW secured the victory was in 2012, and with newly appointed captain Matisse Letherbarrow, the team has a fire in their belly to claim it.

Being her second year in the competition, Letherbarrow, 17, said she’s grateful to have had more experience playing the competition, especially leading the team this year.

In 2018, NSW came fifth, but the team has been stepping up their intensity in training to help prepare.

“I think the dynamic of our team this year is very different. Last year I was the bottom age, so in some ways you do rely on the older girls to get you prepared for Nationals and give you an insight into what it’s going to be like,” she says.

“I’ve had that experience now, I know what the intensity is like so I’m grateful for the experience to go into Nationals again and also help the other girls that haven’t been there and try to prepare them.

“The training we’ve been doing has been very intense and it’s not going to be much of a difference going in there. That’s what the coaches have really focused on.”

So what are the team’s goals this year?

“Obviously we’d love to win but I think our first goal is to get in that top four,” Letherbarrow explains.

“Our coaches have focused on us playing our game, recognising our strengths, what each of us can do and working different combinations. With the game play we had at HeartKids Cup recently, we were able to see what we’re capable of.

“Seeing what can really make us do well and what makes us fall short was really good to identify. We know going in what we can really smash and do well in order to make that top four.”

South Australia and Victoria took the first and second spot in 2018, but Letherbarrow believes the dynamics of all the teams will be different this year.

“Every team brings an intensity and I never underestimate any of them. Last year the South Australian team won and the Victorians came second, and they’re two teams that give you a run for your money. But a lot of their players have now moved up to 19/U, so I think the whole dynamics of their teams have changed as well.”

Letherbarrow has also been thriving in the NSW Swifts environment since being made a 2019 training partner.

“Being around amazing netballers on and off the court, to have them as my role models and be influenced by them has been amazing.

“Seeing the way that Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Maddy Turner lead first hand has helped me. They’ve given many pointers which is really comforting.”

Well aware that there’s state pride on the line to win the Championships, Letherbarrow wants the win more than anything.

“There’s definitely that hunger,” she says.

“Playing ANL, there have been girls that have been second or third and even won the National Championship, and they talk about it as being their best memories ever playing netball. Seeing them still talk about it now and the impact it’s had on them, you definitely want to be able to say you won that gold medal at the National Championships.

“In a way it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I want to smash it and make our state proud.”

The 2019 National Netball Championships take place at the Queensland State Netball Centre in Brisbane from April 11-16.

Full fixtures for the event can be viewed here.