The 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season might have been delayed, but the players are still working hard to remain fit and ready to hit the court when the season does eventually begin. Macy Gardner is a young gun of the competition, working hard through the ranks to prove herself and pave a way separate to that of her accomplished mother, Roselee Jencke—Australian goalkeeper with 43 test appearances under her belt, and current Queensland Firebirds head coach. Gardner made waves with an impressive eight-minute appearance against the Sunshine Coast Lightning, and more specifically Laura Langman, and earned her first full contract off the back of that effort.
Hey Macy, how’s it going?
Good thanks, Gemma. How are you?
Good, thank you! How’s the lockdown and all that sort of stuff been for you?
It’s actually been all right. At the start, it was a bit difficult finding a routine that felt normal and similar to what I’ve been doing previously. Just the immediate decline in training load. We were preparing to play full games and then all of a sudden we’re told we can’t come into training anymore and can’t even play or really see each other. So that was a real sudden stopping of the system. But yeah, I found a routine that I feel like really works for me. As restrictions lighten hopefully we can start training in smaller groups again, which will feel a bit normal.
It must be a little bit frustrating for you because it’s your first fully contracted season.
Yeah. First fully contracted season. I was in there a bit towards the end last year, but we can’t really do anything about it. I guess it will just give me a bit of an opportunity to work on things that I wasn’t really able to work on in season. Building up my tank again and making sure that I’m fit and ready for when we are allowed to go back and train. Ready to hit the ground running.
How was it making the transition from being a training partner into being a contracted player?
I guess [it’s] just being involved a bit more. As a training partner, you’re there just purely to help and assist at training but I guess the real difference is you’re more included in the scenarios and everything that’s put out on court, but also impact the off court; things like culture and even the team camps and stuff. It’s been a really good opportunity to be able to go on those trips and bond closer with the team, making the connection even stronger.
It made me more hungry to want a full contract.
Do you think you’ve learned a lot quicker being involved in those things as well, rather than just a training partner?
Yeah, definitely. But I do think that being a training partner first gave me a little bit of an insight and a taste for what I wanted. It made me more hungry to want a full contract. Being a part of it full time is just the best thing ever, and something I’ve dreamed of, wanting to play elite sport and do something that I love. It’s the best.
I know you probably get asked this a lot, but it’s obviously relevant to your story. Getting into netball, I imagine your mum had a lot to do with that?
Yes, she did. But when I was younger, I was never forced to play netball or participate in a certain sport that she wanted me to play. I didn’t play netball first, netball wasn’t my first sport. I did athletics, swimming and basketball before I even tried out netball. I think that was because of my brothers’ influence on me. They both played basketball and did athletics so I kind of just followed suit with them. And then when we moved up to Queensland, the weather was so much better for outdoor sports, so I took on netball a lot more than I did when I was in Victoria.
Do you think having a little bit of a background in those other sports makes you a more well rounded athlete?
Yeah, definitely. I think being able to play other sports and do lots of other things when you’re younger makes you a better all rounder. Any sport, I guess. Just the different mechanics and things that you learned in other sports can always help you in netball. Even with basketball, even just court awareness and things like that. It’s easily transferable. I guess I haven’t really gotten bored of netball either. I’ve been able to try different sports and trial them to see what I like more. I’ve never just been stuck in one sport that I feel like, I haven’t been able to branch out or try anything different. It’s been really good even in this isolation time just going back and playing other sports. Kicking the footy around, playing a bit of tennis, just to keep that coordination up, but not necessarily netball specific at the moment.
That’s something quite common for elite athletes, that these other sports can actually contribute to what they’re doing in their professional sport as well, right?
Definitely and just doing those other sports for the moment as well. It makes me even eager and more excited to get back out on the netball court. Which is awesome.
We’ve got to talk about how young you are as well. Did you ever feel like you had something to prove because you were that young, or did you feel a little bit like there was a bit of pressure off you because you were young?
I think what’s really unique about netball is that we don’t really have a draft system or anything like that, so being picked up young or a bit older, it doesn’t really matter. I’m pretty lucky in the sense that, I wouldn’t say right place, right time, but more so that I ticked off all the boxes I could up until the stage where the Birdies [Queensland Firebirds] had a few retirements and things like that. I was becoming a more mature player and that was something that the Birdies were interested in—kind of doing a rebuild and restarting, and having some younger players coming to the system. And you’re only going to know if you can compete at that level if you play it, or if you get given a go at it. I definitely feel like coming in a bit younger also gives me the opportunity to be able to learn and grow in the system, whereas a lot of people get drafted a bit older. So they’re doing all those things outside of the system. I feel really privileged and lucky that I have the amount of support that I do, and being able to be in a high performance environment from a younger age.
Everyone always talks about how eight minutes on the court last year really earned you that contract, but the reality is, you’ve been working very, very hard prior to that. When you came off the court from that real challenge, do you feel like something had changed?
Yeah I was, to be honest. When I did debut and get that eight minutes, it was a bit of a whirlwind. I don’t really remember it. It felt like it was just a bit of a blur, but it was the best experience ever. Running out in front of a crowd and with all the girls is something I never really thought was reasonable, but the fact that I was given the opportunity and even if it was just for those eight minutes, it was the best, and being able to compete against the best is what I want to do. You always want to play against the best and I think that kind of just, it all just clicked for me that this is what I want to do, and I’ve got to work really hard to prove myself and cement a spot in this team.
You’re only going to know if you can compete at that level if you play it.
Yeah, and it was a real baptism by fire wasn’t it?
Yeah, against Laura Langman, probably the best mid-courter in the world. It was very, very daunting but just being able to get that experience and exposure and that little bit of taste just makes you want to even more.
Do you think being thrown into that situation you made you realise the confidence that the team and the staff had in you?
Yeah, definitely. And even before going on all the girls were super, super supportive. They just said to play a normal game. It’s just another game in netball and we’ll be there to back you up and be with you the whole way, which gave me so much confidence, just knowing that even if I make a mistake, or you know, if I’m just kind of there being a body or whatever, they’re there to fully support me and guide me and lead the way for me.
You’ve also been selected in the Youth World Cup squad for Fiji next year. Will that be your first competition away from Australia?
Yes, we had our camp for the World Cup squad at the start of the year in Feb. That was a really cool experience, the first time as a young athlete in netball that you can be selected for an international team. We don’t have any other international duties when you’re younger. So it’s the first big tournament that you could be a part of, which is really, really exciting. Even in under age, we were lucky enough that New Zealand and England had teams coming to us and in Canberra we’d play against them. That’s kind of the only taste of international stuff we would get. But yes, this will be the first international duty if I get the opportunity to go.
With talk of the Olympics surrounding it as well, I imagine you’d have a lot of aspirations?
Yeah, definitely. I guess you just take it one step at a time and try not to think too far ahead. We’re meant to be having camps and things coming up later this year, I don’t really know what’s going on in terms of whether we’ll be able to do that anymore. It’s always something that’s in the back of my mind. But first and foremost, the Firebirds. What we do together is on my own number one on my priority list, and then what happens from there will happen.