AFTER back-to-back performances as Southern Force’s most valuable player, new Thunderbird recruit Kelly Altmann has the ball in her court and she is prepared to run with it – although not literally.
Kelly, who is the daughter of Holstein breeders David and Karen Altmann, Blackwood Park, grew up between Murray Bridge and Mypolonga on a Toora dairy farm and is among the new players set to take the court for the Adelaide Thunderbirds when the Suncorp Super Netball season begins in April.
At 25, she said it was a little unusual to be picked later in her career but it was the culmination of her childhood dreams.
“It is something I’ve always wanted, so it’s a surreal feeling, but I’m super excited,” she said.
Kelly began playing netball for Mypolonga as a junior, then represented the River Murray region, before working her way into the state team.
Since 2012, she has been playing for the Southern Force, getting consistent court time in the past three to four years, and was named vice-captain in 2018.
Alongside this, she has been working to gain a Masters degree in sports and exercise science, and is in her final semester.
The mid-court player, usually seen in centre or wing attack, said it was exciting to be selected to play for her ‘home team’.
“I come from the state, and I’ve represented the state, so it’s really nice to be here in SA,” she said.
Kelly said playing locally will allow her friends and family to be frequent supporters in the crowd.
Growing up on the farm, Kelly said she “couldn’t have asked for a better childhood”.
“I was always outdoors, motorbike riding, or down at the dairy for milking or on the river,” she said.
She attributes some of this farm upbringing to her attitude on the court.
“Country players are known for going hard at the ball,” she said.
Two years ago she made a pact with herself to take the next two seasons to make it to the top level.
“I have given netball my absolute all for the past two seasons,” she said.
“I trained really, really hard on the court and did a lot of work behind the scenes. Each week I wanted to put my best out on the court and I am so excited it has paid off.”
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Kelly said it was exciting to get the chance to play alongside her idols.
“I’m looking forward to being in this environment, playing at this level – I think it will take my skills to another level,” she said.
But Kelly is also conscious of another aspect of being on netball’s national stage.
“Growing up, since we were in the country, I would watch (netball) on television and dream of being that person on TV,” she said.
“It’s a weird feeling but a special feeling to know I could be that for other people.”
Kelly is joining the Thunderbirds during the third year of the revamped Suncorp Super Netball competition and said the game had made major strides since the addition of overseas players.
Growing up, I would watch (netball) on television and dream of being that person on TV.
“There is lots of international influence on the game,” she said. “It’s really exciting, they’re bring a different style to the game.”
Kelly said it was also exciting to be playing during a resurgence of women’s sports in Australia.
At a young age Kelly played both state netball and basketball – playing state basketball with fellow new Thunderbirds recruit Cody Lange, who grew up at Bordertown and is returning to SA after two seasons with the Collingwood Magpies.
But eventually Kelly had to make a choice.
“I liked basketball but thought I was better at netball,” she said. “I grew to really love the game and I’m super glad I did choose netball in the end.”
While Kelly is excited to reach the national level, she still has more dreams for the future.
“Every time you get to a milestone, you want to go higher again,” she said.
“It’s my dream to play for Australia one day, but first I want to get on the court and play well and get a starting seven position with the Thunderbirds.”
She also has some longer term goals about returning to the country.
“I definitely want go back home and play for Mypolonga with best friends,” she said. “But I’ve got a lot to do before then.”