Mainland Tactix shooter Ellie Bird knows a thing or two about being tough as she came back from a concussion to appear in the ANZ Premiership grand final.
After an intense and thrilling game, it was the Mystics who walked away 61-59 winners and premiers of the ANZ Premiership.
Despite falling short and going down in the final moments of the grand final, there were positives in season 2021- one of those being sharpshooter Ellie Bird’s recovery and form throughout the year.
Bird had a solid year improving many parts of her game, increasing her versatility and shooting range in the circle.
Speaking to The Netball Post, Bird said it was about finding a balance between her work and career, and she believes the ANZ Premiership competition has helped her with her game.
“It’s all of it. I’ve been around for five years now and my game has obviously shifted a lot. My whole career is the ANZ Premiership so the shift is thanks to that,” she said.
“It’s been good, the 2021 ANZ Premiership competition is obviously a lot closer than what it is previously. I feel that every team can win on the day, the physicality has stepped up.
“I’ve been working on extra strength and things like that to edge my game”
Since first making her first ANZ Premiership debut in 2018, Bird describes the team culture in season 2021 as ‘easy.’
“Our team has been together for two years now, the core of the group for longer than that. Karin [Burger] coming into the team this year, she just fitted in really easily. It was easy, we didn’t have to do a heap of team bonding cause it’s already there,” she said.
“We all just get along; we all argue like sisters and get over it. We’ve learned to have those hard conversations with each other. When something goes wrong, we need to correct it quite quickly.”
The past 18 months have thrown plenty of curveballs at elite athletes. 2020 was a challenge, but Bird said it made the home matches in 2021 all the more special.
“Having that one home game last year and having a full crowd, we were gutted that we couldn’t give fans more home games last season,” she said.
“This year getting to give Christchurch games, and the biggest crowds in ANZ Premiership [was amazing]. It’s really exciting and it’s great to give back to our fans.
“We always talk about the fact that we are the strength of all of the collective, not just ourselves.
“When we played the Steel in our elimination final, with their big crowd, even though they weren’t supporting us as such, we’re used to playing in front of a heap of people and not letting it affect us. I think that helped us when we were in that situation.”
Coping with the pressures of the Premiership and concussion
While Ellie Bird was a force in the shooting circle in 2021, she said it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for her.
Bird says she’s worked hard about ensuring she can always pick herself up on the court.
“I feel like I’ve got the hang of it and do it naturally – shifting my focus,” she said.
“Talking to a sports psychologist, they talk about redhead, green head and realising when you’re in the red, your focus might not be where it’s meant to be:
“The ‘I missed that shot’ or I’m getting bashed around in the circle. It’s about grounding yourself and focusing on the next thing rather than what’s ahead.”
Having faced a concussion midway through the season, she describes the team support staff as very ‘helpful.’
“Coming back from a head knock is quite daunting. We know less about our brain than the floor of the ocean. You don’t want to risk it.”
With the off-season in full swing, Bird shares her insight to what she will be doing to continue her dominance in season 2022.
“Over the off-season, I’ll be working hard on running and trying to get my fitness-base up to start with before leading into the season start.”