It’s a bitter-sweet start for the Queensland Fusion in the Australian Netball League (ANL) this weekend, with its newly named Vice-Captain, Jacqui Russell forced to the sideline, after sustaining a brutal, season ending injury.
Just as the centre-court player was being awarded the leadership honour, X-rays revealed Russell has two fractures to her fibula. She was injured during a collision in the Queensland Champions Cup (QCC), receiving a knee to her calf while attempting to take an intercept and will be on crutches and n a boot for six-eight weeks while the fractures heal.
“It was very painful on impact and I had to get someone to help me off the court as I could not walk on it,” Russell said.
The former 2011 Championship winning Firebird, whose experience will be missed in the midcourt, said she is devastated not to be wearing the maroon dress and lining up with an extremely talented Fusion team.
“The team is so strong this year, with a lot of young players coming through the ranks so it is going to be awesome to see how they go,” Russell said.
“As an athlete it is quite devastating and it is really bad timing. It really sucks as I was looking forward to this year but I think the team is going to do really well.”
Russell, who has been a member of Queensland’s home-grown Fusion team for a number of seasons said she is still looking forward to supporting from the sidelines.
“I am bummed I am not going to get to be part of the action out on court but it is great to still be part of the team,” Russell said.
“It was still great to be named Vice-Captain so it is going to be difficult sitting on the sidelines especially with the games being interstate I will have to wait and hear results.”
The Fusion will pack their scarves and head to Tasmania for a round one double header hitting the court against the South Australian Southern Force on Saturday night before backing up again on Sunday at 10am to take on the Canberra Darters.
The Fusion has secured the services of three ANZ Championship players, Firebirds Demelza Fellowes, Ameliaranne Wells and NSW Swifts Gretel Tippet along with a mix of youth from the successful 2014 Queensland State under-age teams.
U19 National Championship MVP Cara Koenen will line up with Centre of Excellence Scholarship holders Beryl Friday and Hulita Haukinima showing the depth of emerging talent coming through the Netball Queensland ranks.
Fusion is looking for its maiden ANL Championship and coach Kylee Byrne said she has the team to bring the trophy home to Queensland this year.
“It is a fantastic team we have put together on and off the court, we are on the verge of something special with this group which will hopefully result in our first ANL Championship,” Byrne said.
“Our youngest player is 18 and our oldest being Demelza at 33, it just brings such a range of experience plus the younger ones are bringing that passion for playing for Queensland, which is motivating the older ones as well.”
While Byrne is excited about what her team can achieve this year she said the first match against past title holders the Southern Force will set the bench mark for the rest of the season.
“It is a pretty good hit out for our first match. It will be a good show where we are at and we are aiming for a big win first up to set a bench mark for the rest of the teams,” Byrne said.
2014 Queensland Fusion team
Sally Butters – WA, C
Mahalia Cassidy – C, WA
Demelza Fellowes – GK, GD (Co-Captain)
Beryl Friday – GS, GA
Kerri Gordon – GD, GK
Hulita Haukinima – GD, WD
Cara Koenen – GS, GA
Madeline McAuliffe – C, WD
Jacqui Russell – WD, C (Vice-Captain)
Laura Scherian – C, WA (Co-Captain)
Gretel Tippett – GA, GS
Kate Underwood – GK, GD
Madeline Walsh – GD, WD
Ameliaranne Wells – GS, GA
Stephanie Wood – GA, WA