Bundaberg’s Jaizdon Sanders is going to great lengths to pursue her dream of playing top-flight netball.
The 26-year-old has not let being a busy mother or the tyranny of distance prevent her from securing a spot in the USC Thunder Ruby team, a development squad for the Suncorp Super Netball powerhouse, the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Jaizdon, who resides in Bundaberg and works as a Dental Assistant for Queensland Health, travels to the Sunshine Coast every Thursday afternoon to complete an intensive three-hour training session with the Ruby squad, before heading back up the Bruce Highway and getting home about midnight.
“I only train with the squad once a week because my circumstances are a bit different to the other players,” Jaizdon said, adding that she had to conduct her own individual training and gym sessions as part of her agreement with the Thunder.
“I leave Bundaberg on Thursdays about 2pm, we train from 6pm to 9pm, and even when I get home at midnight, I may not get to sleep for another two or three hours if one of the kids is unwell or not sleeping, and then, before I know it, I’m getting up for work the next day.
“I’m currently working full time and about to reduce my hours to try and pursue my dream whilst starting to study primary education.
“I really want to be a role model for my two kids Matilda (3) and Jack (2) and teach them that when you love something in life, go and chase it.”
The sacrifice is worth it for Jaizdon who has wanted to take her netball to the highest level since first starting out as a Year 4 student in 2005 and rising through the ranks with the now-defunct Blazers club which was founded by her parents.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play at the highest level, but I just didn’t really have the opportunity with a young family and work commitments,” she said.
“So, when this chance came along, I was determined to grab it. I didn’t know how I was going to manage it, but I thought I’d have a go and figure it all out along the way.”
A Queensland schoolgirl representative in primary school and regular representative for Bundaberg in the Queensland Premier League and the Wide Bay Thundercats in the Queensland State Netball League, said she was enjoying taking her game to another level.
“I always enjoyed playing in high level representative games but playing in Bundaberg you can’t get the same standard of play as the Sunshine Coast where players are exposed to aa high level of netball all the time,” she said.
“I’m really enjoying the challenge of playing against such good players and you don’t realise the talent that you have until you’re surrounded by really talented people and having to lift your level to match it with them.”
Predominantly a goal attack and sometimes goal shooter, Jaizdon is the oldest member of the Ruby squad but is not letting that get in the way of pursuing a starting spot with the Lightning.
She does not have to look far for inspiration when it comes to breaking through at an older age with former Australian Diamonds captain and past Queensland Firebirds coach Vicki Wilson recently appointed to the Lightning coaching team.
“I’ve heard Vicki Wilson speak at different times over the years about how she didn’t make it into her first representative team until she was 21,” Jaizdon said.
“I’ve still got time on my side; I just need to juggle everything else so I can make the dream a reality.”
Juggling two young children, a job, and a weekly six-hour round commute for training may not be an easy task but it is one that Jaizdon seems well-suited to tackle.
“Until last year I’d never missed a netball season,” she said.
“After having both of my kids I was back on the court three or four weeks later and it was only because of COVID-19 (cancelling fixtures) last year that I missed that season.
“It took a worldwide pandemic to make me have a season off!”
However, Jaizdon is adamant that she would not be giving her dream of playing in the Suncorp Super Netball premiership a crack if it was not for her solid support base.
“Without the help and support of my husband, mum, family, friends, sponsors and teammates there is no way that any of this would be possible,” she said.
Competition dates for Netball Queensland’s 2021 Ruby series, also containing teams from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Darling Downs and North Queensland, have not yet been finalised.
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