Firebirds star Caitlyn Nevins is making up for lost time
CAITLYN Nevins reckons she has grown a full two centimetres since arriving in Brisbane from Melbourne a couple of years ago.
"Yeah, I was 168cm at the Vixens," the 29-year-old tells News Regional Media with a laugh, noting her height is now listed at 170cm.
The Queensland Firebirds star is joking of course.
But there is no doubt Nevins' reputation as a player has grown significantly since her arrival.
While she may be dwarfed by some of the tall timber running around in the Super Netball competition, such as 196cm teammate Romelda Aiken, the girl who grew up in Echuca on the Victorian side of the Murray River says "I've never seen my height as an issue".
"In Echuca I was playing goal attack and then when I tried out for my first state team it was as a goaler, but I made it as midcourt player.
"Even though I'm smaller I suppose I use my speed and agility ... play to my strengths."
Being quick on her feet has worked a treat for the fully qualified podiatrist who has settled into life in the Sunshine State with husband Sam. They recently bought a house in Brisbane, and a new border collie.
Having been involved in the last two domestic netball championships with the Firebirds and finally making her Diamonds debut, the baby-faced pocket rocket has become arguably the premier wing attack in Australia.
Nevins doesn't like to think she's reached the peak of her powers just yet though.
That would mean there's no more room left for improvement.
"I wouldn't want to say I'm at the peak of my career. I don't want to settle on that. I still want to be chasing even better performances," she says.
"I think that is one of my strengths - always trying to find that extra edge to develop my game.
"When I get out there on court I want to keep refining my skills.
"You can't become complacent because there is so much talent in this league. If I'm complacent then somebody else will do better.
"I get feedback every week from (head coach) Rose (Jencke) ... that just helps to keep me on track in terms of my own personal development."
Nevins has bounced between centre and her preferred position of wing attack this season, with her game going to another level. She notched 42 feeds to the goal circle an MVP performance for the Firebirds against Adelaide in round six.
For Nevins, it's been a case of making up for lost time.
In terms of her career at the elite level, it's still relatively early days.
As she says her "road to the top hasn't been a smooth one".
She ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament at the age of 21, just when on the verge of breaking through to the top echelon.
"At that stage I was sort of been groomed into the elite pathway," she recalls.
"With my injury I fell out of the high-performance loop and it took me a really long time to get back. I think I got my first contract with the Vixens at age 25.
"A lot of players go from the under-21 national championships and straight into an elite netball team.
"That was really tough."
Nevins, though, persevered, and eventually prospered with an invite to joins the Vixens.
But, while she was a part of an ANZ Championship in 2014, Nevins was also playing second fiddle to an extent in the wing attack spot to established star Madi Robinson.
"I learnt a lot in that environment ... but I also knew I wasn't going to develop much further if I stayed where I was," she explains.
"With the opportunity to come up to Queensland and a new environment - and very successful one - I just saw it as a challenge and opportunity to see where I could take my netball career
"I'm just really lucky I've had excellent coaching. They instilled a lot of confidence in my own playing ability.
"Because I came into elite level netball little bit later I feel like my body is quite young I suppose for my age ... not as much wear and tear on the body.
"It's quite a demanding sport."
Nevins became the oldest player to debut for her country in 42 years in February.
"It was an absolute dream come true to be named to play in the Australian Diamonds. It's something that I've been working towards for a really long time," she says.
"I would love to add a few more caps to my name
"What I need to do is play well with the Firebirds and Diamonds selection will hopefully come from that
"I suppose there's too many games between now and when they name the team to be thinking too far ahead to the international season
"But the Commonwealth Games (in April next year on the Gold Coast) is something I would love to be a part of.
"Diamond selection at the end of the year is where I need to be to make that dream a reality."
Until then it's all about the Firebirds and pushing for a third consecutive championship - and fourth individually - and first in the new Super Netball competition.
The Firebirds are currently mid-table, but still in the hunt.
"Everybody aims to win a premiership. Every team wants to standing up there at the end," Nevins says.
"But it doesn't come without a lot of hard work
"It's a very even competition this year. It could go a number of different ways
"But, it's going to be a great challenge."
The Queensland Firebirds take on Giants Netball at Gold Coast Convention Centre on Saturday. Secure your seat now via Ticketek or watch it live on Nine Gem at 7pm AEST.