Time for some straight talking if we are to rescue Jets’ season

Maria Lutua
Maria Lutua
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Six games, no wins and no points. This is the harsh reality of where we find ourselves at the end of Round 6 and if I am being completely honest – not again, I hear you all shout! – Monday night’s performance and the result made me want to cry.

Going into the game we knew we had another opportunity to end our points drought and move off the bottom of the table. Dragons were in the same position – they hadn’t won all season. That made them as hungry as us. I did not, however, take our opposition for granted and we spoke at length in the build-up to the game about Celtic Dragons’ ability to play clinical netball and convert a very high percentage of their possession.

Like so many times this season, and as I’ve written about in this column week-in, week-out, we needed to be more consistent, we needed to pull together as a team and pull out a performance. Few moments of our season have contained pretty netball, I asked the team to try and win ugly. That didn’t happen on Monday night.

We had wide-ranging errors across our game and the final quarter summed up the match for us – Dragons piled on the points and scored 17, we could only manage three. The final score was 55-33 which leaves us at the bottom of the pack after six rounds with eight more to go. The way in which Celtic Dragons executed their game plan should definitely be commended. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t play to our potential and we go back to the drawing board ahead of our next game contemplating what we can do.

One thing that is never in doubt is the support of the Jets fans – and that is being truly tested. If you’ve never been to a Superleague netball game, you’ll struggle to understand quite how passionate and vocal fans of the sport can be. It’s something else – it was at my old club in Bath and it’s the same here in Yorkshire. At the end of the game, win or lose, there are scores of girls waiting for autographs and to speak to the players. One such girl waited with her family until I had finished my cool down, taken photographs with sponsors and completed a rather lengthy post-match interview. She was the last one standing and had school the next day but she just wanted to give me a hug. I was so glad she waited around. I did not know that she was the exact remedy I needed for the bitter taste in my mouth.

When I was younger the passion that I played with was often interpreted as aggression. I was constantly reprimanded for the tone that I used and the manner in which I communicated with my peers. The coaches that I grew up with were always monitoring me on my ‘behaviour’ and critiquing my personality – to excess at times. I recall being pulled aside once and told that my talent and physical abilities were never in doubt, however, my behaviour would be what prevented me from getting selected into a squad.

I have been told before that I do not possess the characteristics to be a leader and operate in a team environment. These are all very hard things for a young netballer to hear. But I have very broad shoulders, I always want to be better and when people make a judgement on me that I do not believe to be true – I try to prove them wrong. Over the years I have worked ridiculously hard to not only become a better netballer but also a better person.

The style of leadership that I tried to adopt, when previously overlooked for official titles, was by example. It made sense to me that if my words could be misconstrued and my messages lost in a pressured environment that I would ‘do’ instead of speak.

It is often said that actions speak louder than words, however, in order to help push my Yorkshire Jets side forward actions alone have not been enough. We will all need to do lots more talking.

We have to be able to hear the ridiculously hard things that we would rather not know about ourselves and use them as motivation for change.

It will continue to be a challenging time for the Yorkshire Jets, however, what will truly be tested now is our character and pride.

The matches come thick and fast in the Superleague. On Saturday we welcome Manchester Thunder to Leeds – Thunder were undefeated going into Round 6 but they were beaten on Monday night by the reigning champions Surrey Storm. They’ll be looking to come back strongly from that I’m sure. These Roses clashes are always thrilling, intense games and the scorelines in recent years have been incredibly close.

It’s no surprise the game has been sold out for weeks and I’m looking forward to getting back out in front of the capacity crowd and doing my utmost to ensure the White Rose of Yorkshire prevails.

So to the million pound question. Can a group of coaches and players pick themselves up from rock bottom? We will see.