Katie-Jay Illingworth is ready to lead her team.
Katie-Jay Illingworth is ready to lead her team. Shane Jones

KATIE-JAY IS BAY LEADER: Illingworth to lead Cats

NETBALL: If the Wide Bay Thundercats players needed any inspiration to win this season they need look no further than the woman they elected captain.

Bundaberg's Katie-Jay Illingworth was chosen by her peers to lead Wide Bay's Queensland State Netball League campaign later this year.

She takes the captaincy outright after sharing it with Natasha Cross last season.

"Being voted by your peers and by your teammates is a huge honour," she said.

"Being a stand-alone captain is a huge responsibility, so it was a little bit of a surprise to get it."

Illingworth believes she is also perfect for the role after dealing with plenty of adversity.

This is her second year as a Thundercat after having a full knee reconstruction that ruled her out of the 2014 season.

She then had heart problems that forced her to have to play with a pacemaker, which ruled her out for another season.

"I think all the setbacks, I guess you could call them that, have only made me stronger and better captain material," she said.

"There is absolutely no issues with me playing with a pacemaker.

"I'm so lucky, I couldn't be more thankful for technology and the public health system."

Illingworth now wants to confront and overcome the biggest challenge facing the Thundercats.

The side hasn't won a match in a few years in the competition and have been focusing on a fitness regime and finding the right squad to change that.

"We're not naive, we're not foolish, it is a hard competition," she said.

"The thing that's hurting us is the mindset.

"The teams that you play against, they are physical, it is an intense game of netball.

"If we can match that then there should be no reason why we can't get some wins this season."

Illingworth said she would be playing as centre this season and wanted to lead with vice captain Sarita Narayan.

Narayan was named by coach Tracy Riley.

"We've got a strong leadership team," Illingworth said.

"Sarita's quite vocal, passionate and strong so she will hopefully push the girls really hard.

"I'll be a lot more encouraging and a bit more gentle.

"I'll also take a full grasp of what is needed at the time and make sure everyone has got their head in the game."

Riley said Illingworth embodied Wide Bay and deserved to lead.

"She's calm on the court, she's the loudest on the bench, so she's a really good choice," Riley said.

The Thundercats will continue to train around Bundaberg, Maryborough and Hervey Bay before starting their season at Townsville on April 27-29.

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