A bizarre 2020 for sport

Casey Demons young gun Sacha McDonald is relishing the chance to be part of the Melbourne Vixens'' hub in Queensland. Picture: COURTESY OF GRANT TREEBY/NETBALL VICTORIA

You could say that Sacha McDonald’s bizarre season of netball is a microcosm of life in 2020.

“It will be one crazy year when we look back on it in a few years,” McDonald said with a laugh.

The first inkling of that strange year is that the prized Casey Demons recruit is still yet to pull on the bib for the local club in a competitive game.

She already feels at home with the Demons, but there will be a void until she makes her debut for the club in a Victorian Netball League game.

“It wasn’t my ideal introduction to the club,” McDonald said.

“I’m really proud to be part of the club, but eventually it would be lovely to step out onto the court when the time comes.

“I’m really excited to see what we can do as a VNL group, but we’ll have to wait for our time to come and all the restrictions to open up.”

The year got bleaker for McDonald when her Victorian Fury representation was thwarted after the Australian Netball League became a victim of the pandemic.

The goal attack was eager to showcase her skills on the national stage before, in McDonald’s words, “the world decided to flip on its head”.

But McDonald is not bitter about missing out on her chance to represent the Big V.

“Not having ANL is frustrating, but at the same time, it’s pretty minor in comparison to what’s happening in Victoria and worldwide,” she said.

While the pandemic rages, McDonald’s year on a sporting level has at least taken a turn for the better.

The 20-year-old was granted the opportunity to be part of the Melbourne Vixens’ squad for the Super Netball season.

She is part of the Vixens hub based in Brisbane – another strange outcome in a wild year.

“The hub is very unique,” McDonald said.

“It’s something that we’ve never really come across before and fingers crossed we won’t have to do it again.”

McDonald has appreciated the priceless opportunity to be part of an elite environment with the Vixens.

The dearth of on-court play that might have hindered the young goal attack’s development has been offset by the chance to pick the brains of Vixens’ stars.

“It’s been such a good experience,” she said.

“The people around me are pretty prime.

“You try and soak up as much as you can and just appreciate the position that we’re in.

“It’s netball 24/7.”

McDonald is certainly not taking her time in the Brisbane hub for granted.

She is devastated for her Demons and Fury teammates, who are not allowed on court due to Victorian lockdown restrictions.

“We’re actually really lucky to get this opportunity to come up,” she said.

“They extended the squads from 10 on the bench to 12, so that’s given young players a chance to come up and be part of the bubble.

“There are so many ANL players who have pretty much been cut off from competitive netball and essentially within Victoria we’re the only people who are able to play, so that’s something we really understand and are just so lucky to have.”

Speaking from the Brisbane hub, McDonald said she can feel the support of netball-loving Victorians who are appreciating the chance to watch games on TV in lockdown.

The Vixens have been putting on a show for their fans, topping the ladder with 10 wins and a draw from 12 matches.

“People are appreciating what our sport can give,” McDonald said.

“It’s a two-way street – we appreciate the support we get from back home and it’s lovely to hear from friends, family and the wider community that they’re also appreciating what we’re putting out on court.

“It is lovely to know there’s a community there that has our back and it’s been quite crazy the amount of support we’ve had from back home.

“So many messages of people saying that netball is the only thing they’ve been able to do that’s enthusiastic in their life.”

A big netball career development for McDonald came up last week when she was selected in Netball Australia’s Under-21 Centre of Excellence squad.

McDonald is just one of five Victorians named in the 28-player squad.

The Australian team for next year’s World Youth Cup is likely to come out of that group.

“It’s going to be something fun and exciting and challenging to get out there and be a part of,” McDonald said.

“I’m happy and proud to see where I’m at with my netball and really enjoying it.

“I can’t ask for much more, but there’s a long way to go to improve.”