PULLING the pin after the Jerra Joeys’ 2012 grand final defeat to Waratah, Mardi Croke acknowledged she’d lost her passion for the game.
But it only took a few months on the sidelines for Croke to rediscover her competitive zeal.
And on Saturday, the ageless defender capped off her whirlwind return to netball in Jerrabomberra’s 40-26 inter-district grand final win over Sunrise.
Croke was coaxed from her premature retirement less than two months ago after injuries had left Jerra short on height and experience inside the defensive circle.
“I just missed it too much,” Croke said following Saturday’s victory.
“They had to twist my arm a little bit because I hadn’t really done much since [I’d retired], no netball that’s for sure. They didn’t have to twist too hard though.
“I just had to dig in. I went back to boot camp and got a personal trainer and did all that.
“The first game back was pretty hard but the girls have been amazing, they’ve welcomed me back with open arms and it was like I never left really. If I can get a little bit fitter I think I’ll go again [next season].”
Alongside captain and fellow defender Laura Gow, Croke’s rebounding proved a major factor in the Joeys’ win.
Having accounted for a dangerous Arawang outfit in last week’s semi-final, Sunrise had taken plenty of confidence into Saturday’s grand final.
But against their Queanbeyan rivals, Sunrise had few answers for Jerrabomberra’s blend of youth and experience as they were held to just five goals for the second half.
At the other end of the court, the Joeys’ youthful shooting paring of Brittney Reynolds and Eden Garrety showed few ill-effects after backing up from the Cadets Division 1 grand final earlier in the day.
And Gow was lavish in her praise for the young duo, lauding her side’s patience in attack as key to Jerra’s surprisingly comfortable victory.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to win by that much,” the Joeys skipper said. “Personally I thought it would be a bit closer but in saying that I don’t think the score line really indicated how hard we had to work for the win.
“I thought the girls worked really hard in attack especially. It was hard to get the ball in there but they worked it around until the option presented itself.”