Bird soars high for Silvermoon Tactix

07 August 2018

In the space of two years, Ellie Bird has gone from second grade club netball in Wellington to one of the leading goal shoots in the country.

The 25-year-old will be a crucial performer for the Mainland Tactix in Wednesday's national premiership elimination final in Invercargill against the Southern Steel.

She heads into the knockout contest fresh off her best outing in the professional ranks, landing 54 goals from 61 attempts in the Tactix 62-60 final round win over the Magic.

It will be a milestone occasion for Bird and her team-mates, who are playing the first finals match in the Tactix 11-year history.

Two years ago, Bird, whose brother is former All Blacks lock Dominic Bird, was running around for Wellington East's second grade team in the capital.

At 1.96m, Bird is blessed with height, but never registered on the national radar at secondary school or under-21 level.

The self-confessed late bloomer, was raw with her skills and didn't have any lofty ambitions to be a top-level star.

A phone call from Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek, then the team's assistant and coach of Mainland's second-tier Beko League team, changed everything.

Lacking a tall goal shoot, Delaney-Hoshek enquired whether Bird would be interested in a move south.

The shift was made easier with Bird's mother, Sally, living in Christchurch.

Bird starred for Mainland's Beko team and it wasn't long before she was promoted to the Tactix squad after Delaney-Hoshek took over when Sue Hawkins stepped down as coach.

It was the second time Delaney-Hoshek had attracted Bird to a team she was coaching. She lured her to the Wellington NPC side in 2013 from her Waipukurau home in Central Hawke's Bay, having played age-group representative level for the Central zone.

Having appeared in seven games for the Tactix last year, Bird has taken her play to another level over the second half of this season.

"I am feeling a lot more confident. Last year, I felt like I was at the bottom and just a newbie.

"But now I'm part of the team from the start and have tried to step up. Last year, I was taking everything in."

Bird finished round play as the competition's third most prolific goal scorer, landing 499 from 620 attempts at 80 per cent.

She attributes a long off-season on the training court and in the gym to her improvement.

Last season, she struggled against the physicality of elite defenders and got pushed around in the shooting circle. To combat that, she added strength with three weights sessions a week in pre-season and concentrated on core work, leg presses, and weighted lunges.

Being able to pick Dominic's mind about high performance sport and having someone not involved with netball to provide advice had been huge.

"He is very helpful and supportive. He always texts me after every game saying how proud he is."

After a poor shooting game against the Magic earlier this season, Dominic offered reassuring words. Bird responded with a strong outing 24 hours later against the Steel, slotting 35 from 41.

"He calmed me down. Dom said, 'It's just sport and you can do it. Just stop overthinking it'."

Delaney-Hoshek praised Bird's development and said her dedication behind the scenes had been rewarded on court.

She believed she had to be in the running for a spot in the Silver Ferns' development squad, who will play matches against England and South Africa before September's Quad Series.

"She's put in a lot of work. It hasn't just happened by chance.

"She's just grown in confidence each game and she's such a weapon. You see so much growth in a year, so where is she going to be next year?''

The original article was published on Stuff -