Geitz on fire after triumphant 2015
AFTER experiencing the best year she's ever had in 2015, why would Firebirds and Australian captain Laura Geitz want to walk away from netball?
First, there was THAT memorable 57-56 ANZ Championship grand final triumph over the New South Wales Swifts in front of a deafening crowd at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Then there was the thrilling 58-55 win over New Zealand in the Netball World Cup final, leading the Australian Diamonds to their third consecutive global title.
The retirement rumours swirling around Geitz were strong leading into the World Cup, after she hinted at the possibility earlier in the year.
But the sweet feeling of victory - and the tight-knit environment at the Firebirds - has the 28-year-old itching for more success next year, after she recently committed to 2016.
"To keep playing for the Firebirds wasn't a hard decision at all," Geitz told Australian Regional Media.
"I'd play for the Firebirds until I'm 60 if I was allowed to, because of the family environment. I often worry when I do retire there'll be nothing like that.
"For me, no, I was really keen to stay on and play for another year."
As Geitz embarks on the difficult task of winning back-to-back titles with her beloved Queensland outfit, the memories of a magical 2015 will help get her through all the gruelling training sessions.
More specifically, it is the memories of the last 14 seconds of the grand final against arch rivals NSW that always give her joy.
"Gosh, that grand final … I've been really lucky to play in some international games where they've been exciting and amazing," Geitz said.
"But that grand final was just ... I would have to say that's the best game of netball I've ever been involved in.
"Yeah, it didn't go into extra-time, but to lead for 14 seconds of the game and pick the right 14 seconds to lead, it will stay with me forever."
A shot at making history next year is also driving her.
"It's in everyone's heads that no other team has gone back-to-back," she said.
"But we also understand that we can't rely on what we did this year to get the same result next year. We've got to try something new - we've got to be innovative, or people will work us out."
Most importantly, though, Geitz believes maintaining a fun environment will be as crucial to winning consecutive titles as any intense training session. That's why you rarely see the inspirational skipper without a big smile on her face.
"It's always been like that - that's the culture of the Firebirds," Geitz said.
"We're proud of winning and we're proud of being a successful unit, and that's what drives us. The thing we are most proud of is that we are a family, and from my first day at the Firebirds that was instilled into me.
"That was my first experience - you are taken under the wings of the older players.
"Nothing was too much hassle, and I think we've really tried hard to maintain that.
"I think that the social side of catching up away from the game is really important in propelling a team forward, and this team does it like it's second nature."
Geitz's selfless personality and the culture she has promoted has also allowed Firebirds goal-shooter Romelda Aiken to blossom into one of the greatest attackers the game has ever seen.
The lanky Jamaican star became the first player to pass the 4000-goal career milestone in the ANZ Championship earlier this year.
She also took home her third MVP title after another amazing season.
"When you step out there you just get so driven and passionate about what you're doing, so you want to give it 100% all the time," Aiken said.
"(But) at the end of the day we just want to go out there and have fun.
"Laura's a great inspiration not just to the team, but to outside players as well.
"We aspire to be like her a lot, and she sets a good example for us, so we can only walk in the same direction as she is.
"Once we're having fun everything will work out best for us."