Caitlin Thwaites on her friendship with Bec Bulley, her hometown & the RD9 Giants game.
From Bendigo to the Melbourne Kestrels to the biggest stage with the Australian Diamonds, Magpies netballer Caitlin Thwaites has shared a storied past with one of her round nine opponents - GWS Giant, Rebecca Bulley.
Born and bred in country Victoria, both Thwaites and Bulley journeyed through the netball ranks to blossom into two of Australia’s finest netballers.
“Growing up, we didn’t cross paths very often in Bendigo,” Thwaites said earlier this week.
“We played in different leagues and Bec was a few years older than me, so we didn’t really play against each other going through the junior ranks.
“Bec and I are good friends and I’ve known her family for a very long time. My mum and her mum used to play tennis together, and it’s always been nice having that Bendigo connection between us.”
Along with Melbourne Vixens defender Chloe Watson, Bulley and Thwaites are products of a growing netball pathway coming from country Victoria.
“It’s really nice to know we are all representing Bendigo.”
“There’s been a few really good netballers to come from country Victoria, so it’s nice to know there’s a group of us in the league.
“When I was growing up, knowing their were country girls who’d paved the way into netball’s premier leagues was inspiring.
“I love the Bendigo community. My parents still live in Bendigo and Bec’s parents live around the area. The Bendigo Advertiser gets behinds us when we play which is really nice.”
(Caitlin Thwaites & Rebecca Bulley celebrating Australia's gold medal at the 2015 Netball World Cup. Photo - Patrick Thwaites)
Before signing with the Magpies and Giants respectively, the pair celebrated on-court success together in 2015, winning the gold medal with Australia at the Netball World Cup in Sydney.
In round three of the Super Suncorp Netball (SSN) League this year, Thwaites starred in another impressive performance for her Magpies, shooting 42 goals from 46 attempts.
But it was her Giants opponent and friend in Bec Bulley, who picked up the victory, nullifying a Magpies attack with the help of her goal keeper, Sam Poolman.
“Bec is an incredibly smart defender. If you look at the way that she plays, she’ll actually adapt her game depending on her opponent.”
“It’s really hard to predict what she’s going to do against you and she has great timing on her opponent’s shot.”
(Thwaites & Bulley battled it out in the Magpies-Giants RD3 clash at Hisense Arena. Photo - Patrick Thwaites)
While they’ll spend plenty of time battling on-court in the Magpies’ round nine clash in Sydney this Sunday, Thwaites says some of her best moments with Bulley have been off of the court.
“Bec is definitely a character off the court, so it’s been great spending time in my career on different teams with her. She is so competitive and she’s a great teammate.”
“It’s always nice coming up against someone on the court like that. Before the game and during the game, it’s all serious, but as soon as that final whistle goes, we’ll have a hug and a chat.”
“Even since she’s had her baby, it’s been amazing to see how quickly she’s bounced back. It’s great to see her continuing to do extraordinary things.”
When Thwaites meets the Giants on Sunday, Bulley won’t be the only former teammate she’ll be facing.
With former Swift and now Giant captain Kim Green recovering from an ACL on the sidelines, Thwaites will come up against her former NSW shooting partner, Susan Pettitt.
After helping the Giants storm to first place on the SSN ladder after eight rounds, it will be Thwaites’ teammate April Brandley who will be tasked with trying to minimise Pettitt’s impact on the weekend.
(Magpies defender April Brandley will work with Sharni Layton to try nullify the Giants' attacking duo of Susan Pettitt & Jo Harten)
“I’ve had a little chat to April already about it,” Thwaites joked.
“This is the blessing and the curse of having played on different teams. Susan will know a whole lot of information about me to share with her defenders, and I know a few things about her too. So April knows a few things that she does.
“Susan is the queen of the baseline and her timing is impeccable. However, April has great closing speed to cut off and meet the ball. Hopefully some of those tips can help April out. It will be an awesome match up to watch.”
Coming off their Easter break, Thwaites says the Magpies are feeling refreshed and are ready to attack the second half of the season.
The Magpies sit fourth on the SSN ladder with a record of 4-4, with Sunday’s clash against the Giants proving a must-win clash with the Queensland Firebirds hot on the Magpies’ heels.
“This week, we have to tighten up a lot of areas.”
“Across the last few weeks of us playing, we’ve been turning the ball over too much. We want to try and improve that and not give away the opportunities our defenders are working so hard to create for us.
“We’re all excited to get back out onto the court after a mentally refreshing Easter break.”
The Magpies meet the Giants on Sunday April 23 at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. The game will be available on TelstraTV from 1pm.