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2022 Preview: Stars dig deep to go further

2022 Preview: Stars dig deep to go further

Consistency of selection has aligned with the return of two familiar faces and a robust review to give the Robinhood Stars a promising launching pad for the 2022 season.

Having the most settled line-up of all the teams, the return of former team members Kayla Johnson and Holly Fowler adds a unique twist with all 10 players having played for the Stars previously.

“Consistency of selection is something we’ve been aiming for the whole time that I’ve been here in my role,” Stars coach Kiri Wills said.

“And it’s now really exciting to finally be in that position and not having to start from scratch with new relationships on court.

“The only two new faces to the squad (Johnson and Fowler) have already played for us, so there’s quite a bit of stability there. It’s really just been a matter of re-tuning them back into how we play the game.

“When players go, you always want to make sure that the door’s still open for them. For us, it feels quite special that they want to come back and I’m really pleased to have them back.”
The Stars set the pace for the first three-quarters of last season to top the table for eight weeks before dramatically falling away in the latter stages and going on to miss the Finals Series.
A full and independent review was held to identify the causes and Wills is confident the major issues have been ironed out and the team now also has a military psychologist working with them to delve into the nitty gritty.

“I’m definitely a growth-mindset coach and don’t believe I have all the answers and I know everything, so it was good to have someone else run the review,” she said.

“Sometimes when you’re a coach and involved with that, you can actually steer it in a way that means you don’t get everything out of it.

“One of the key factors to come out of it was new relationships and that we were quite a new-look side, so when we did get under pressure, rather than holding each other accountable and boosting each other up, we went a bit quiet, and went into our own heads and our own little worlds.

“I think we wasted a bit of time being nice to each other. We’re always going to be nice to each other but it’s okay to be direct as well. Coming back with a solid squad, those relationships are really strong, they’re a tight group, so now we want to drive more performance out of that culture.”
With defenders Anna Harrison, who will turn 39 during the 2022 season, and Elle Temu, having a standout season in 2021, the Stars did not lack for gaining ball, so there has been plenty of focus on the shooting end during the pre-season and what they require to improve their consistency.
However, there’s no holding Wills back on her expectations for the Stars for the upcoming season.

“We absolutely are capable of being in the Grand Final,” she said.

“We were capable of it last year and I think we should be better this year, so nothing less than first or second, I think is where we should be.

“We’ve got huge firepower throughout the court and we need to bank it this year.”