The Firebirds' Mahalia Cassidy looks to offload against the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Brisbane last Sunday. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The Firebirds' Mahalia Cassidy looks to offload against the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Brisbane last Sunday. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images Chris Hyde

Firebird feeling hungry after a year out of the game

MAHALIA Cassidy could see the positives in being forced to wait that little bit longer to make her return to the court.

After Cassidy missed the Queensland Firebirds' entire 2017 campaign due to a knee reconstruction, 12 months of recovery became 14 as the Super Netball season was pushed back for the Commonwealth Games.

"It kind of worked in my favour because it gave me a couple more months to get everything right," she said.

"But it was also a long and slow pre-season. By the end of it we were all just ready and raring to go."

The 22-year-old centre had ruptured her ACL in a practice match on the eve of the 2017 season.

It threw the Firebirds' planning into disarray as Cassidy had been set to become their No.1 centre after Kim Ravaillion's defection to the Magpies.

"It was just a week before our first game," Cassidy recalled.

"It was devastating. I'd worked really hard and was really looking forward to the season ahead.

"But I've come back as a stronger player and also smarter because I've had that year to look and watch games from a different point of view."

 

Mahalia Cassidy during her rehab last season.
Mahalia Cassidy during her rehab last season.

Cassidy, who had her occupational therapy degree at the University of the Sunshine Coast to focus on, described her rehabilitation as a "roller- coaster".

"Physically it's hard, but mentally it's harder," she said.

"It was hard to watch the girls play, wanting to be out there.

"It's difficult. You get bored at times during the rehab doing the same old things.

"There's also frustrations with then being back on court and wanting to do more but being restricted.

"It's taught me resilience, taught me to be stronger mentally."

Though part of the premiership-winning team in the final edition of the ANZ Championship in 2016, Cassidy said she would be looking to cement her status as coach Roselee Jencke's starting centre.

"At the end of 2016, winning a premiership it was such a cool feeling, but I also wanted to start getting more court time," she said.

"Being given that opportunity last year to have the potential to start was exciting.

"(But) I had to wait an extra year to be able to have that. It made me work harder and be able to appreciate being back."

 

Mahalia Cassidy takes on Maddy Proud in the Firebirds' season opener against the Swifts.
Mahalia Cassidy takes on Maddy Proud in the Firebirds' season opener against the Swifts.

Cassidy was chomping at the bit a fortnight ago for the Firebirds' season-opener against the NSW Swifts.

"I waited a long time to get back on court," she said.

"It was good to be able to have that opportunity. Being able to play in a purple dress is such a privilege.

"I'm thankful I'm back and playing netball."

Cassidy admits she's "not playing exactly how I want to be at the moment", but is slowly adjusting to being back in such an elite environment.

"I'm still happy, and continuing to work hard at training and improving with each game," she said.

At 1-1, with the loss to Swifts followed by a win over reigning champions the Sunshine Coast Lighting, the Firebirds head to Melbourne with confidence to play the Vixens.

 

Today: Vixens v Firebirds 3pm, Lightning v Fever 5pm, Magpies v Thunderbirds 7pm. Tomorrow: Swifts v Giants 1pm.