It could have been the shortest comeback in netball’s history.
When Sarah Wall was activated by GIANTS Netball as an injury replacement player for Kimberlee Green, she had not been summoned off the couch.
But, unlike most training partners or short-term solutions, the wing attack had no recent state league or club experience to draw on.
Wall’s last competitive experience was with the NSW Swifts in 2014 and, naturally, she was gobsmacked when coach Julie Fitzgerald called with an invitation to play Suncorp Super Netball.
As conditioned as she was from her role as founder and instructor at her Netfit academy, it would take an almighty leap to return to the level expected from an elite player.
“My fitness was there from doing Netfit but it had been two-and-a-half years since I’d played so I knew there was a bit of a risk,” said Wall, who never officially retired after her stint with the Swifts.
“It could have gone two ways. Either I was past it or I could hold my own.
“Jules just told me to back myself.”
Wall accepted the offer to leave her Melbourne base to train for a week with the competition-leading Giants but deep down she had already committed to the challenge of proving she could cut it.
The first step to making a successful comeback was temporarily farewelling Wall the businesswoman to once again embrace Wall the netballer.
Wall’s project Netfit runs clinics and fitness sessions in every Australian state and employs many of her current and former teammates.
To give herself the best chance, she had to set that aside and focus on training, playing and the best recovery processes that would enable her to contribute to a winning Giants outfit.
“I’d gone from going to the office from seven in the morning and had to give myself over to all the little things you have to do to be an athlete,” she said.
Moving into the house of her good mate Green helped the transition for Wall who is now at her fourth club after playing for the Vixens, Firebirds and Swifts.
More importantly, advice given to her more than a decade ago by former coach, Australian Netball Hall of Fame member Joyce Brown, finally sank in.
“One of the things Joyce taught me was to read the energy of those around you,” Wall said.
“I never fully understood it then but I do now.
“You have to do a lot of video to get a read on the other payers, where they like the passes, and know, for example, Bobby’s (Serena Guthrie) a left-hander.
“And of course, I’m so fortunate to have Kim Green. She’s been so supportive.”
The first-placed Giants host the Queensland Firebirds (fifth) on Friday night and Wall still considers her former club as the dominant team in the competition.
The outcome could mean the difference between finishing in first place and landing in an elimination game in the first week of the finals.
Wall’s opponent will be Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson who was still emerging when the pair first met in 2014.
“I’d played against Gabi when I was at the Swifts and I thought then she was one of the toughest opponents I’d played,” Wall said.
“She’s so strong on the body, she’s got that elevation and I love her as a leader.”
GIANTS Netball will host the Queensland Firebirds at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre at 7.30pm local time this Friday May 19. Get your tickets or tune in on Telstra TV or the Netball Live mobile app.