Sydney University’s Jemma Donoghue finally made her Australian Netball League debut playing for the Great Western Sydney-based Giants when they took on the Swifts in the 2022 opening round of the Super Netball season.
And what a national league debut it was for the 20-year-old Sydney Uni Netball Club member. Playing goal defence, Jemma came off the bench for the second half with the task of marking Helen Housby, one of the world’s best goal attacks. The Giants ended up winning the thriller 57-55.
“Playing Helen Housby in my debut was amazing. She’s such an experienced and talented athlete,” Donoghue said. “She was a difficult opponent to come up against, but it was also a huge learning experience and one that I will take so much from and use throughout the rest of my netball career.”
A Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) student, a member of Sydney Uni Sport’s Elite Athlete Program, and a netball Blue, Jemma was brought into the Giants’ program after earning selection in the Australian 21 squad in 2021. But, as with most sports, Covid caused the competition to be cancelled last year. She was finally called up to play in several pre-season trials this year before making her Super Netball debut as Giant No.25.
“When I found out I was coming into the 10, I was so excited even just for the experience to be at game day with the girls for the first time, whether I took the court or not,” Donoghue said. “It was literally the most surreal experience and definitely a pinch-me moment. I kept thinking to myself how crazy it is that not even that long ago, I was just a fan sitting in the crowd thinking how amazing the players were on the court, and I was one of those players on Saturday night that people were there to watch.”
Among those watching were her immediate family and friends, with some extended family having to tune in from overseas. “The rest of my extended family, who live over in the UK, obviously couldn’t be there in person, but it was amazing that they could call watch with the new streaming service and experience it all the same,” she said.
Jemma said she tried to keep herself as busy as possible on game day and not think about the game, which was a local derby and a grand final rematch. The two-point win was special for her as the Giants’ defence held strong, and she also contributed six points. “That final minute-and-a-half where we just held possession was definitely the slowest minute-and-a-half of my life – I’m sure coach Julie (Fitzgerald), and all the members and fans can relate. I kept looking up at the clock and thinking that surely more time had passed since I last looked.”
The Giants followed their Round 1 win with losses to the Thunderbirds (56-43), the Melbourne Vixens (64-52) and the Firebirds (72-59) before accounting for the Magpies (76-61) and the West Coast Fever (74-73).
The Vixens head the ladder after six rounds with 20 points, with West Coast Fever (16), Firebirds (12), Giants (12), Lightning (12) and Thunderbirds (8) making up the top six with six competition rounds the be played leading into the finals.
“Now that I have had a taste in the SSN level, I definitely want to be part of it some more, so I want to be ready if any more opportunities arise throughout the season,” Jemma said. “Long-term, I would love to get a contract in the SNN with the Giants and become a part of the environment full-time.”
But her ultimate aim is to become an Australian Diamond. “That would be a dream come true,” she said. “But I know that I have lots of hard work to do between now and then to reach that goal.”
Keep taking those giant strides, Jemma.