Newton: Pleased to call Cardiff home

Jacqui Newton is relishing her new life in the UK. The 27-year-old has joined Cardiff Dragons for 2024 after her former club, the Collingwood Magpies defected from the Australian Suncorp Super Netball league. The move is proving fortuitous as the experienced GD / GK has already shown a strong partnership on the court with fellow Australian Leah Middleton in the early rounds.  Speaking with Netball Show, Jacqui reflects on the closing weeks at Magpies and how she is finding life in Cardiff.

“Our initial meeting we had with Magpies was honestly a shock,” she says of finding out about the team’s folding. “When they said that they were doing a review into the netball program, we weren’t really sure what that meant. The decision (to end the team) was a big surprise.”

“I’d been part of things for the past three years and was very happy to call the black and white home for that long. Obviously, there were girls who had been there for much longer, even since the inauguration. So yeah, it was a really difficult adjustment.”

When reflecting on her decision to move to the Netball Superleague, Jacqui says the offer came at the best time due to the stalled contract negotiations and ‘limbo-like’ atmosphere in Australia.

“It was quite a tough time. On top of all the contract talks and the situation with Collingwood, it was definitely full-on. I think a lot of players were left in limbo a little bit. It was quite straightforward for me to look elsewhere. So, when Dragons reached out, I couldn’t say no.”

Jacqui Newton in action for the Cardiff Dragons in the Netball Super League. Image: Morgan Harlow

Jacqui is getting more regular game time in the Netball Super League. Image: Morgan Harlow

Jacqui’s decision to move to the Super League in the UK was based on her own merit, and she, surprisingly, didn’t take advice from ex-Magpies teammate Geva Mentor.

“To be honest, we both kind of went about our business in our own ways. And then, when I saw that she’d signed up for a team (Leeds Rhinos), it was nice knowing that I’d at least know someone over here when I moved. I had heard a lot of different things about the Super League from a few different people, so I felt that I had all the information and resources that I needed and it really helped me with my decision”

Before heading to the UK, Jacqui weighed the pros and cons, but eventually, the unique experience, not afforded to many athletes, was what won out.

“I don’t think I had a goal to be in the Super League specifically, but I was definitely very interested in the experience that it could provide to me. Obviously, moving across the world and having that UK exposure and then having Europe next door, it just definitely offered a completely different experience compared to living in Melbourne, where I’ve lived for the past eight or nine years; this has been a really massive job, yeah. ”

Now that she is settled, Jacqui is pleased to call Cardiff her new home and still has much to look forward to.

“I love Cardiff! It’s great. I like it so much now when it’s quite cold and miserable that I know it’s going to get better when it gets warmer. I’m not sure if it’s a mixture of the place itself or just the people here. But I really like it. It also helps that I love the people who are my teammates and who were so welcoming. It’s really hard for me not to love where I am. So yeah, I’m very lucky. ”

When reflecting on how her team is sitting in the rankings and hopes for the rest of the season, Jacqui is pleased with how Cardiff Dragons have started their 2024 Netball Superleague season. Their two wins, two losses and one draw has them sitting in fifth place on the ladder heading into Round 6.

“We have had a strong start but it could have been a bit better. However, we’re happy that we can put out a brand of netball that brands the Dragons name which obviously didn’t have too much success last year or in previous years. We just want to show people that that’s not who we are anymore. I think we’re doing the right job of that so far. Hopefully, we can keep the fans enthralled, and we can keep those wins coming.”

The Cardiff Dragons defence includes rising star Nansi Kuti, Lucy Howells and Leah Middleton. Despite the partnership with Middleton impressing so far, Jacqui says it was a whole new partnership she had to build.

“I’m absolutely loving it. People think just because Leah and I are both Australians that we’ve defended together before or would have some special bond. But we’ve actually never played together. I think we played against each other years and years ago in a tournament, but she was in age groups above me. I am just stoked that I’ve come over, and it’s like we’ve been defending together for years—let alone a few games into the season. I feel lucky about that.”

Dragons are coached by the highly experienced Jill McIntosh, who has brought a new flair to Dragons performances. Jacqui explains she is learning from her coaching.

“I have not worked with Jill at all, but I’m loving it. She’s to the point, and you know exactly what she’s thinking, what she’s saying, what she loves. You know, if you’ve played a good game. If she tells you, “Good Game, Jac”, you can really take it as a genuine comment because if there’s something need to work on, you know.”

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