Shoot­ing star rises to the top

Net­baller takes on league’s best

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - SPORT - Doug Con­way

KRISTINA Brice has emerged as net­ball’s hottest new prop­erty af­ter a “crazy” sea­son in which she won the ANZ Cham­pi­onship’s best new tal­ent award.

The in-de­mand Has­sall Grove shooter had left Syd­ney for Ade­laide ex­pect­ing only to train with the Thun­der­birds but ended up mak­ing a big im­pact on court.

Now she is likely to be in­volved in con­tract talks with more than one club to sort out where she will play next sea­son.

“It de­pends on who of­fers me what, and how it can all work around my uni stud­ies and work. In the end I’ll make the de­ci­sion that’s best for my net­ball,” the 22-yearold shoot­ing star said.

Brice is in the third year of a health science de­gree at Western Syd­ney Univer­sity’s Pen­rith cam­pus, part of an elite ath­lete pro­gram that en­abled her to com­plete some units while in Ade­laide with the Thun­der­birds.

She also takes coach­ing clin­ics for Net­ball Aus­tralia.

“I didn’t ex­pect this award. I didn’t even ex­pect any court time when I went to Ade­laide,” she said.

It’s been crazy, one thing af­ter another. I just hap­pened to be there. I didn’t ex­pect this. Kristina Brice

“I was con­tracted as a 13th player, look­ing to do some train­ing, get some ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­state and end up in a good spot to be se­lected for the next sea­son.

“But so many play­ers got in­jured and sick. It’s been crazy, one thing af­ter another. I just hap­pened to be there.”

Brice took her op­por­tu­ni­ties with both hands af­ter in­jury hit vet­eran shooter Carla Bor­rego.

She notched up eight ap­pear­ances, with 226 goals from 262 at­tempts at 86 per cent ac­cu­racy, tak­ing on some of the league’s best.

She was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the bot­tom-placed Thun­der­birds to their only two wins of the sea­son, pick­ing up a most valu­able player award against Cen­tral Pulse in New Zealand.

Brice fol­lowed in the foot- steps of for­mi­da­ble shoot­ers Mwai Kumwenda (2014) and Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (2013) when she was named the league’s best new tal­ent of 2016.

Her self-as­sur­ance grew as her time on the court in­creased.

“Know­ing that the girls knew I was go­ing to do my job made it eas­ier for me and gave me more con­fi­dence go­ing into games,” she said.

“Be­ing able to get out there and have a go has been a bonus.

“I’m re­ally happy with how I’m play­ing at the mo­ment.”

Brice thanked her team­mates, coach­ing and sup­port staff for her con­fi­dence.

“Get­ting more con­sis­tent train­ing, hav­ing coaches who have put the time and ef­fort into me has re­ally helped,” she said.

The 196cm shooter, sec­ond-tallest player in the Aus­tralian Con­fer­ence, be­gan as a de­fender when she started with Has­sall Grove at the age of six.

She moved up front when she switched to Baulkham Hills as a 13-year-old.

Kristina Brice (right) has im­pressed on court this sea­son. Pic­ture: Keryn Stevens

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