May 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm #6046020
Sports writer for The Age
Class act: Madison Browne last year won the three major individual awards at the Netball Australia awards night. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
Fear of failing again does not so much stalk one of Australia’s best netballers as lurk quietly within the self-described control freak who narrowly missed out on Commonwealth Games selection in 2010 and was pipped for the final midcourt place at the 2011 world championships.
It is a worry that niggles away at Madison Browne, even if her name would be among the first called out if a team for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was picked now. ”I still feel like I’d be complacent to go, ‘Oh well, I’ve done everything, and if it just wasn’t meant to be, it wasn’t meant to be’,” says Browne, Australia’s reigning player-of-the-year and a brilliant wing attack, who is yet to earn major-event selection despite playing 26 Tests. ”I say that, but I think when it actually comes to reality I’ll be like, ‘That f—ing sucks!’ You know what I mean!
”Because, not that I want to retire, but I won’t be around forever, I don’t think, with the way that I play the game and the demands on my body. So in my head I probably think this could be my last shot. Whether I will go through to another Comm Games and world champs, I don’t know; it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, that might be it.”’
And yet, in some ways, it has only just begun for the dynamic 25-year-old who made her first state team a decade ago, inheriting her sporting genes from her father, former Geelong footballer Mark, and, well, her modest height from her mother, Chris. More helpful are a wingspan that, at 174 centimetres, shades her body length by six, and huge hands – ”man hands”, she laughs – that could be best compared with Ian Thorpe’s flipper-like feet.
But Browne has not had the luxury of the netball waters parting to accommodate her every step. In 2008, when still a teenager, she found herself on the unfashionable Kestrels’ side of the merger with the all-powerful Phoenix, and, after one season, destined for the West Coast Fever in search of more court time. When she was wooed back in 2011 it was as a more complete, professional player, a raw food devotee and fitness fanatic 10 kilograms lighter.
”She’s got great speed and her balls skills are fantastic, she’s got great hands and great vision,” says Vixens coach Simone McKinnis of her vice-captain. ”But one of the things you notice most when she’s not there is her intensity at training – at every session it’s go, go, go. She’s just dynamite every session, training to the best of her ability and capacity and then she takes that into a match.”
Looking back now at her slightly podgy former self, the one-time Australian 21-and-under captain marvels that she considered herself an elite athlete. But such is her dedication these days that she cops a ribbing from teammates for taking her mini-blender on the road to whip up pre-game health snacks and smoothies, while also equipped with the maturity to understand that it was a transformation aided by a none-too-subtle nudge from former Vixens coach Julie Hoornweg in 2008.
”As much as at the time they say, like Jack Nicholson, ‘You can’t handle the truth’, honestly, I couldn’t,” she admits, acknowledging the influence of her triathlete fiance Todd Robinson, who shared the move to Perth and instilled the mentality of exercising for love and enjoyment rather than as pre-season obligation.
”When Julie said to me, ‘You’ve got to lose a couple of kilos, you’re a bit overweight’, I was like, ‘Oh!’ It was an 18-year-old going, ‘How dare you call me fat’ kind of thing,” adds Browne.
”But now I look back and I go, ‘Thank you for finally being honest with me’, because no one else had been previously, and maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did if we hadn’t had that tough conversation.”
Her passion for the sport was rekindled in the Vixens’ 2012 grand final season. At year’s end, she scored a clean sweep of the three major individual honours at the Netball Australia awards dinner, including the prestigious Liz Ellis Diamond. So utterly unexpected, she says, as to be almost surreal, Browne saw it also as reward for four ”tough” years that have improved her as both player and person.
”I do see people who haven’t had that [struggle], and that’s when you get a bit complacent and you take it for granted, and you’re like, ‘Oh, we’re on tour again’, or, ‘Oh, we’re away for two weeks, and oh, life’s hard’, whereas I think, ‘You know what, I would have given my arm and leg to be in Singapore and win that gold medal and I would have absolutely killed to be out on that court in Delhi’.
”But I’ve seen that and I’ve had to step away – that was one thing I didn’t have control of, and I’m so anally organised and in control of everything in my life, the fact that I didn’t have control over that hurt me the most, because I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t know what to do’, and I couldn’t get it, so I think it definitely made me see the whole big picture and go, ‘You know what, is this what I want, or am I going through the motions?’ I think it totally made me put everything in perspective and go, ‘Look, just make the most of this. Give it one last shot and what will be will be.”’
From the player once crowned ”Australia’s fittest netballer”, an anecdote from the Vixens’ demanding pre-season camp is revealing. Having already tallied about 700 exercises of various types since emerging from their tents at 6am, each weary woman had to hold a steel bar above her head, arms straight, elbows locked, motionless, for 30 minutes.
Tough, but done. Then came the news that the camp record of 45 minutes was held by a Melbourne Storm player. Challenge on.
When captain Bianca Chatfield dropped out after 46 minutes, well satisfied to have beaten the beefy blokes, Browne was left to outlast goal attack Tegan Caldwell.
To add to the difficulty, the determined pair then had to stand on one leg. And finally with eyes shut, as numbness set in. ”Tegan’s very fit as well, and there’s always that secret competitiveness with the goalers, because you don’t want the princess goalers to ever win,” Browne recalls.
In the event, Caldwell held on for 85 minutes; Browne triumphant with 86. The Vixens collectively would like the Storm lads to know who rules.
So to next year, and the chance, again, to feature in one of netball’s Big Two events, in Glasgow in July. The pressure will be on, Browne admits. ”If I am named it will probably be a bit of a [dramatically exhales], ‘Oh my goodness’,” Browne laughs. ”I will obviously be ecstatic about it, but I will probably be like, ‘Ohhhhhhh, I’ve finally lived up to the expectations other people have seen in me’. I think it will just be like, ‘Oh, thank goodness, I’ve finally been able to do it’.”May 4, 2013 at 11:50 pm #6046030
Seriously? ‘podgy’ Browne told to drop 10kg? Thwaites-gate sure makes a lot more sense now..May 5, 2013 at 1:15 am #6046040
I think theÂ amount of weight loss was her choice.
And to be perfectly honest, whether its the weight loss, or a different attitude towards her conditioning, or a mix of both,Â its worked.Â She is far more athletic than she used to be, and still running hard at the end of a game.Â Shorter players need to make the most of every advantage they possibly can, and increased speed, agility and endurance will hopefully help get her selected for the next CGs.
It is interesting to compareÂ Verity Simmons, to her.Â Simmons is yet to be as consistentÂ as Browne, especially on the need to reoffer, but has such magnificent athleticism for a shortie.Â NVB plays a very controlled game, but it would be interesting to see a speedier Diamonds midcourt at times, with the likes of Browne, Green, Braz, Simmons.Â I was lucky enough to be courtside at the Fever v Magic game, and the combo of Simmons, Bolton and Braz was just amazing to watch.Â You don’t quite get the same impact viewing it on TV.
Thinking about it now, some of the great centres around on the world stage – VB, Langman, Tombs, Clarke – have been what I call steady players rather than hustly-bustly speedsters!May 5, 2013 at 6:11 am #6046060
What about George?
I dunno about Hornweg, Her um requirements seem to work on the netball court, but you have to hope none of these girls develop complexes after they’ve retired and no longer have access to trainers/nutritionists….May 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #6046290
I had heard of the holding the iron bar test, but didn’t realise that they were trying to beat the blokes, and, in fact, smashed their record.May 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm #6047590
really, 10kgs, thats a LOT
trying to paste some old pictures, but can’t seem toMay 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm #6047650
Have we really got that PC that a coach of a sporting team can’t say drop a couple of kgs you aren’t fit enough?
Browne was unfit in her Kestrels days (by sporting standards) and can herself look back now with the maturity and agree with that.May 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm #6047870
Yes and no.
she should be able to say what she wants, she is the coach and should be able to say what she wants. And all the players need to act like adults when they want to play and be treated as an adult.
BUT, especially when dealing with teenage girls, it does need to be carefully done. At age 18, there is a good chance that her body shape has not finished developing and we would hate for there to be more eating disorders or accusations of it.May 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm #6048030
Didn’t the ANZC start in 2008? Browne wasn’t 18. She was 20 in the Vixens debut season.
And as much hate as there has been for Hoornweg over the years I highly doubt she did it in a harsh way and rather would have been very careful about the way she and the Vixens team dealt with it.May 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm #6048250
I had heard of the holding the iron bar test, but didnâ€™t realise that they were trying to beat the blokes, and, in fact, smashed their record.
The Vix published it on their Tweets and FB channels pre-season.
Actually the football blokes, of any code are not very fit as compared to other athletes such as track and field, triathlon etc. When she came back from badmintonÂ training in China, my daughter at age eighteen was streets ahead in fitness as compared to Footscray, North Melbourne and Carlton football players.Â And this was measured by “her” fitness trainer, a bloke called Dennis Pagan who at the time was full-time coach of North Melbourne, at whose training facility she did her workouts under VIS sponsorship!Â Â She also excelled in “longevity of effort” .Â There’s a proper name for this but my “old timers” is kicking in again!May 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #6048280
Pardalote wrote: I had heard of the holding the iron bar test, but didnâ€™t realise that they were trying to beat the blokes, and, in fact, smashed their record.
I don’t think they set out to “beat the blokes” but the bloke’s sustainability became something of a target…. which the Vix girls found eventually they could (relatively easily) surpass!May 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm #6048320
Nice to see you here, Micardi. You’ve been quiet for a couple of days – thought you might be celebrating your 80th birthday. So, are you OBE yet?May 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm #6048340
I dunno about Hornweg, Her um requirements seem to work on the netball court, but you have to hope none of these girls develop complexes after theyâ€™ve retired and no longer have access to trainers/nutritionistsâ€¦.
After watching today’s game Vixens vs Pulse, I am firmly of the opinion that only two of the Pulse (Grant and Leota) girls were even remotely as fit as the Vix!
Are you suggesting that most of the Vix are going to grow old with mental problems?
Also, I’m now glad that we (the Vixens) didn’t manage (supposing we even tried) to re-sign Thwaitlyn, althoughh I advocated it prior to this season.Â I reckon that Hoornweg was 100% correct!May 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm #6048370
Thanks Pards, No, I just retired to my natural shrinking persona!Â I’ve got to survive another thirteen days to reach the (not so) magic *)!May 5, 2013 at 4:12 pm #6048380
After watching todayâ€™s game Vixens vs Pulse, I am firmly of the opinion that only two of the Pulse (Grant and Leota) girls were even remotely as fit as the Vix!
Spot on – Lees looks pretty fit as well but Wilkins, Thwaites, Selby Ricket and the two girls playing WD all seemed to be struggling at times. Of course playing in a losing team always makes you look slower than you are.
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