Flock of Firebirds fans to cheer Caitlyn Nevins in Melbourne
NETBALL: Firebirds wing attack Caitlyn Nevins certainly won't be lacking any crowd support when she takes on her former team the Melbourne Vixens at Hisense Arena tomorrow.
Nevins will have plenty of family and friends at the game from her home town of Echuca, right near the border with New South Wales and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Victorian capital.
There will be a lot to cheer about for Nevins' converted Firebirds supporter group.
Her defending-champion team will be out to equal the record of 16 consecutive wins, held by the Adelaide Thunderbirds, after Queensland lost just one game last year.
And Nevins has started the 2016 season in fine fashion.
She produced 14 and 12 goal assists respectively in her team's wins over the Tactix (70-55) and Pulse (61-45) in the first two rounds of the ANZ Championship.
"I'll have a lot of family and friends driving down from Echuca ... I loved growing up there," Nevins told Australian Regional Media.
"The football and netball teams in town are closely connected - I played netball and my brothers played football. There was always a lot of encouragement from the community to get outdoors and participate."
Nevins put her strong start to this year down to a testing pre-season.
"My strength was identified as an area I needed to improve on so I did a lot of work on that with my personal trainer," she said.
"It's given me a good foundation and I can make more of those repeated efforts now."
Nevins said she was giving no thought to equalling the competition record for consecutive wins, or even winning her third-straight title later this year, after claiming the premiership with the Vixens in 2014.
"We're not getting carried away with the final product, we just want to focus on being at our best every week," she said.
"It's nice to get off to a winning start this year, because we lost our first round last year, before we were undefeated in our remaining games.
"It was such a spine-tingling feeling winning the grand final by one point last year.
"But when you get back to training it's straight back to reality, and every other team is trying to knock us off our perch this year."
Nevins, also a podiatrist, said the Vixens' back-court would be difficult to break down.
"Jo Weston and (2015 joint Vixens MVP) Geva Mentor play a really tough one-on-one style - they've got a strong defensive line-up, and Alice Teague-Neeld combines well with (other 2015 Vixens MVP) Karyn Bailey up front," she said.
"And they'll have some inside knowledge on how I play from my time there."