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Sportscast Jersey caught up with Jersey Netball Association’s 2019/20 Player Of The Season Leah Griffin in an open interview where the Goal Attacker opened up about her journey to be where she is today, as Jersey Jets’ first choice GA.
We spoke about the successes of the season just gone, whether she was expecting to be recognised as the player of the season and also reflect on the brilliant news that Les Ormes will be the home of netball for three more years.
Here is what Leah had to say to Sportscast Jersey:
Firstly, just how much have you missed playing netball!
I have 100% missed netball! It’s a big part of my life. Jets train twice a week for two hours and we are away playing games every other weekend. At St Clements we have our league games every Monday night. As well as the games themselves, I have missed just being with all the girls. We spend so much time together and share the same passion for netball. At training we forget about our busy days at work and let off steam playing the sport we love. We have such a laugh at training and we work hard in preparation for our games away.
How was the season going for the Jets before the season was brought to a halt?
We were doing exceptionally well. We had been working hard at training on set plays and were executing them during games away, giving us good results. We built trust and confident relationships in one and other so we knew that if something wasn’t working and we needed to change the combination it wouldn’t have a negative impact on the team and the focus would be maintained. I feel one reason behind our great season was that we all worked hard for each other. For example, if the defence got an interception (turn over) to bring the ball back up to goal, we stayed in control and gave each other options. We didn’t panic and worked hard to get that ball into a shooter, even if that meant a few extras passes. We all looked after the ball. We had just started preparing for play offs to take back our place in Premier League 3 before lockdown began.
How were the away weekends – a good experience to have two away games a weekend?
Away weekends are great. We have our physio Jack, also known as our quiz master as he makes up quizzes for the long bus journeys and we get to eat lots of yummy m&s food because that’s the local pit stop on our way to games. Having two games in my opinion is a good opportunity for everybody to get a game and try new combinations. I suppose it’s also more time for us to practise what went wrong in the game the day before and make changes against oppositions who challenge us. At home we only play against each other. Also, coming home with one win is amazing but when we win two it is even better. Don’t get me wrong two full games is tough on your body and we are all very tired, but it’s worth every bruise and every pulled muscle!!
On a personal note, were you enjoying your netball? Did you feel you were improving?
I was loving every minute of my game time, even if I was getting bumped around by my fenders and I think I headbutted the post a few times, ending up with bruises all over me (who says netball is a non contact sport!!) – I wouldn’t have it any other way. Over the last three seasons I feel I have improved a lot. I have learnt to read the game better and have become aware of the space in my circle. It’s hard coming in as a new GS (Goal Shooter), as when you’re the target the girls need to be able to see you and be confident to give you that ball. That’s something I struggled with to start but the girls had a lot of patience and we figured it out together.
You also play for St Clements A in the Winter League – what is it like playing against Jersey opposition?
Playing against Jersey oppositions is different. You are either good friends with them or you know of them. When I play against my friends we do take it seriously but you can also have a laugh. We do always get scared of injuring each other, though!
What was the highlight of the season for you?
It’s hard to say a highlight of my season as it’s all so good and it can sometimes feel like if all the season rolls into one memory! If I had to pick one, I would say the first game of the season away. I was so nervous but my shooting stats where I around 94% and that was something I was very proud of.
You were recently vote as the 2019/20 JNA player of the season – how pleasing was it to have that recognition and win that award?
I was very happy to have that recognition. I feel like I have worked hard to be where I am today. It’s taken a good three seasons of training, learning and practice to be Jets’ starting GS. I have taken in every single bit of information, advice and criticism to get me to where I wanted to be. Winning that award meant a lot to me.
Were you expecting to win it at all?
I wouldn’t say expecting it. I thought it would be good if I did get it because I know how much I have worked to get where I am. There are other girls on the team down the defending end which I thought would probably get it, so I was actually a little bit shocked.
How pleasing was it to see Jets will be staying at Les Ormes for three years – a big relief for everyone?
The thought of not having a home for netball was very sad and it made me feel angry that it was even something being considered. Netball is such a popular sport for girls and women in Jersey, there is so much talent and passion. Jersey netball are one big family, the news of having Les Ormes for another 3 years is just incredible. We can’t wait to start playing again! Let’s be honest, we spend a lot of time up there it’s like our second home anyway.
Finally, what are your goals for the future, both locally and for the Jets?
I would like to see myself playing for a few more seasons, I know I have lots more to give. The recent season for me is where I think the penny dropped and I started understanding my space, my movement and got to know my circle. Moving forward I feel confident I can work on some more tactical plays and step it up a level. Once you find your feet in the circle you can start working on more options. I can see Jets making it back up to Prem 3. We will be working extra hard to get to where we want to be and especially after this extra long break we’ve had we will be hungrier than ever before.
A big well done to Leah for her award, and also to Jets for what was a brilliant season before Covid-19 hit!
It is great to see Les Ormes is to be the home of Jersey Netball for the next three years, at least, too. As one of the most participated sports in Jersey, it is vital that such a brilliant sport and set up should continue to thrive.
A big thanks to Leah for her time, and we look forward to see Jets and all netball sides back on court here in Jersey, hopefully in the near future.