This year has been a whirlwind for most and Mount Evelyn netballer Kaitlyn Black is no exception, having capped off 2020 with a Super Netball debut for the Collingwood Magpies.
A debut that very nearly didn’t happen.
The defender started the year training in Melbourne with the Magpies after signing with their Australian Netball League feeder team, the Tassie Magpies.
However, her season came to a standstill when the ANL season was cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 29-year-old figured she was “done for the year”, but all that changed when she received a call from the Collingwood Magpies in their Queensland hub, inviting her to come up and join their squad.
One day later, she was on the plane up to the Sunshine State. Another two weeks later, she had completed her mandatory quarantine and moved into the hub, which would become her home for the next few months.
After 10 weeks cheering on her teammates from the sidelines, it was finally Black’s time to shine.
Despite all the build-up to her moment, when it did arrive, Black admitted she was not as nervous as she thought she would be.
Having gone through the motions on the bench in the previous few weeks and knowing there was a possibility to get thrown on at any minute, she was ready for her turn.
“It was sort of a natural feeling of ‘here we go, this is netball, I know how to do this’,” she said.
“And it really helped having players like Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward whispering your name and tapping you along.
“It was good, it was very exciting.”
Black was instrumental in her role of Wing Defence, showing composure under pressure and smoothness with her transitions out of defence.
While the Magpies ended up going down by four points at the final buzzer, they took a two-goal lead during the six minutes that she was on the court.
Reflecting on her time in the hub, Black said the experience was “more of a dream than (she) ever could have expected.”
She was, however, excited to return home and begin planning Mount Evelyn’s 2021 pre-season.
Black, the playing coach of Mount Evelyn’s A Grade team, has been involved at the Rovers for the past four years.
It’s a family affair for the Black family, with Kaitlyn’s cousins and sisters first playing at the Club before she jumped on board too.
“I went to watch (them) play them and I thought ‘this is amazing’,” Black said.
“It was such better quality than what I expected and the way it was such a community with football and netball and everyone knew each other, I must say it sucked me in.
“When I go back through the list of Mount Evelyn players, they’ve got a ridiculous backlog of players, and so many are close friends who I am still in touch with now.”
Despite her impressive career to date, which has spanned over 15 years in the VNL and eight years in the ANL, the Rovers’ 2019 A Grade Premiership victory remains one of her fondest netball memories.
“It was phenomenal,” she said.
“To finish last year with all four open teams in finals was amazing. We knew we were going in with a chance but we didn’t realise just how strong we could be.
“Finals are anyone’s game and anything can happen, so you just have to go out there and try to win it on the day.”
While being both a player and coach in the same team can have its challenges, Black wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Particularly in the hairy end of the seasons and coming into finals, it was really tough to make the calls of pulling people off, to bench someone, or what to do when I was having a cracker of a game,” she said.
“It was a really big challenge (but) the girls listened to everything I said and went out and did it.
“They were so easy to coach and they made me feel like I was valued and had something to share.
“I think if we’d had any other dynamic of personalities it might have been a different result, but everyone wanted to play for each other.”
Signed on and raring to go, Black was excited about what the group could produce in 2021.
“You can’t walk away after a premiership, although I do keep reminding everyone that we still are reigning premiers!” she said.
“You have to get the group back together and have another crack.”