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My Melbourne: Ash Brazill

3 Aug 2017

Playing for the Aussie side in Fast5 Netball is Ash Brazill, who we caught up with to talk all things netball, footy and Melbourne.

We would love to hear about your childhood

I grew up in New South Wales, in a country town called Bargo. I grew up on a little farm with my mum, dad and little brother. For me, life didn’t have a strong focus on netball — I loved all sports. I would come home and kick the footy with Dad or head out on the motorbikes or ride the horse. We never really went into the city, and if we did, it was a big deal. When I look back on my childhood, I feel so lucky and grateful that I had that experience.

Sport has always been my go-to. I didn’t really love the academic side of school — besides from seeing all of my mates — but sport was really my thing. It didn’t matter if it was cross country, athletics, football, soccer or netball, I’d always be there to play. My poor parents were always driving up and down the coast and out to the city for me to be able to represent different sides in different sports. I played any sport — anything that I could get a day off school for!

How did you get your start in netball?

My mum used to play netball and, when she gave up the competitive side of it, both her and dad played in a mixed competition. I just remember always wanting to play alongside my parents and putting my hand up to fill in whenever they were short a player, even when I was a young as five. I think this is why my parents put me into netball — because I was always asking to play with them. Later on down the track, when I was about 13, they were still playing, so I was lucky enough to play with them then.

Where I was from, it wasn’t too hard to make a representative (rep) team, as netball wasn’t really the main focus in our town. You really only needed to show up.

How did you come to be in the position you are in today?

From starting out in rep, I was lucky enough to be named with the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS). I didn’t even know what that was back then, so I was a bit reluctant. I told them I had to ask my parents because it meant that I would have training three times a week in the city. My parents were very supportive of this.

There, I got to learn from coach Lisa Beehag, a former Australian wing defence player. At the time I was so scared of her though — she was pretty strict. I think throughout my whole career, she was the coach that got the best out of me.

From there, I went to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and moved to Canberra for a year. There are a few girls who I lived with in Canberra, who I now play with at Collingwood. It is pretty cool to have known them as a young kid and being able to play with them at an elite level now.

Through the pathways of NSWIS to the AIS, there was the state team, as well as the Australian team that I was trying out for. For a while I would make one team, but not the other. For me, that was pretty tough, but it made me want to train harder and do all the little things better. It wasn’t until I was about 21 years old that I finally made both sides.

From the AIS, I was selected in the New South Wales Swifts team, where I played for two years. I spent most of my time on the bench, as most young kids do their first couple of years. I remember my debut game; for the first few minutes on the court, I couldn’t even breathe because of the adrenalin. But after a while, I found my place.

Then I made the Fast5 (formerly known as FastNet) team where I had a really great season and received the player of the series. The coach of the Fast5 team, ex Diamonds’ coach Norma Plummer, called me after the tournament and told me she was going to be head coach of the West Coast Fever. She wanted me to come across, which is the reason I moved. I was there for five years, two of which I was captain for the team. I then moved to Victoria to play for the Collingwood Pies.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I always say my entire career has been my highlight, as there isn’t one thing that is better than the other. I’ve loved every club just as much, learning new things from each of them.

The Collingwood Pies’ made the finals in the first year of being a team, which is pretty cool. Of course, we wanted to finish higher, but our progress as a team throughout that season is one of my highlights.

Have you always preferred to play centre and wing defence? If so, why do you like these positions?

As a junior, I was a shooter. When I was at the AIS, I played goal defence, but then everyone grew, and I didn’t grow, so I moved to wing defence, which is by far my favourite position.

What has been the highlight of starting with a brand new club?

Being able to create our own history. Everyone in the team left their previous club for a reason — whether that was to challenge themselves or get out of their comfort zone — and everyone has their own story. At the start of the season, we knew what we didn’t want in a club, so that was easy, but it was what we wanted in the club that we had to work for.

Have there been any challenges?

Yes. A few of the Collingwood girls also play for the Diamonds. We only got them back a week before our season started, which was hard, as we hadn't trained much with them. But we still did well.

For me, personally, it was recovering from a knee injury. I had to change the way I ran, walked and the way I stand. As a 27-year-old, being told that you’re not walking or running right is pretty confronting and tough to work on.

Talk us through the biggest differences between Fast 5 and regular netball

Rules-wise, it is just so different. There are five players, and the shooters can shoot outside of the goal circle for extra points. In the mid-court, you can run on and off the court whenever you like, rather than waiting for quarter breaks. Quarters only go for six minutes, so it’s a short game. For me as a player, it brings another element of excitement. When the girls shoot a long bomb (worth three points) and it goes in, it’s just so exciting. You also get power plays, where you nominate a quarter for double points, so that three-pointer would turn into six points in one shot. You could be down by 12 in the last quarter and only need two shots to be back in it.

I know in regular netball, Australia is so far ahead of everyone and are winning by 60-plus points sometimes, which can get boring. In Fast5, you have a team like Malawi, who has never made a final at an international level, coming so close — a couple of years ago, we only beat them by one point. Having less people on the court, allows some players to show a bit of x-factor as well.

For spectators, it’s exciting because there are closer margins in the games and the three-pointers and six-pointers really get the crowd going.

In what ways can fans support Melbourne (and Australia's) netball teams?

Just getting down to the game and not being afraid to cheer! A lot of people think that netball is a bit like tennis, and you have to be quiet, but fans of some teams are so loud, and we know it’s such a big advantage. We love having a big crowd there cheering for us; it definitely lifts the level of netball on the court.

You've also dabbled in footy, a sport many might perceive as quite different to netball. What are some of the similarities and differences?

There are similarities in the way the games are played. You’ve got to find the space to run or kick into, the decision making, the pace of the game. Obviously, in netball, you can’t kick or handball and in football you can’t throw, but I think there are so many similar elements to each game. For me growing up in a footy world, there are so many things that I’ve been able to transfer to netball. Even the way I jump — people say I jump like a footballer. At the club, we see a lot of the AFLW girls and we’ve been able to learn different things from them and vice versa. Even the Collingwood guys watch our footwork and practise the things that we do.

Is a second sporting career in the AFLW a possibility you'd consider?

When my netball season was over, I played a few games of footy for a team, but then made the Diamonds so had to pull out. It was great to mix things up a bit. Footy is something I love, but for now, netball is my priority.

You haven't always lived in Melbourne. How have you found living here?

I absolutely love it. No regrets. In Melbourne, there is always something going on. If I don’t have netball on, I can just walk down the street and something is happening. Whenever we have a weekend off, my partner and I go on little adventures. In Western Australia, if we had a free weekend we would just go to Margaret River, which was three hours away. Now we don’t need to travel as far to find something new and different. There are so many things I love about Melbourne — going out for coffees, exploring and going to the footy for example.

Ash's Melbourne Picks

Cafe Dundas & Faussett in Albert Park. We always take visitors here and everyone loves the food and great coffee

Restaurant GAZI in the city for great Greek food

Free thing to do Exploring the city for photography

Place to exercise Anywhere by the bay

Event Football games