Laura Clemesha (right) of the Firebirds attempts to block Caitlin Thwaites of the Magpies.
Laura Clemesha (right) of the Firebirds attempts to block Caitlin Thwaites of the Magpies. Chris Hyde

'Pest' Laura Clemesha hitting new heights with Firebirds

NETBALL: Laura Clemesha can thank an old teacher at her school in Toowoomba for setting her on the right path to a netball career.

The rising star, who is donning the prestigious GK bib at the Firebirds made vacant by the great Laura Geitz, was in Year 8 at Downlands College when approached by sport co-ordinator Tamara Richardson.

Clemesha had been heading to softball trials.

"I was six-foot at the time," the 24-year-old recalled to News Regional Media. "She looked at me and said, 'no, you're going to netball trials'.

"I'm obviously thankful to her."

While she has become a key member of the Firebirds' campaign to win a third successive title - and first in Super Netball - Clemesha admitted she wasn't an instant success on the netball court.

"I had plenty of enthusiasm ... but I wasn't the most co-ordinated kid," she said.

"Fortunately, the height was enough to give me quite a few opportunities early days.

"And I was lucky enough to have coaches who were keen to mould me."

Roselee Jencke has been one of those coaches in more recent times, having brought Clemesha into her Firebirds fold after a stint at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

Jencke has described Clemesha, who now stands a tick under six-foot-three (190cm), as a "pest", in the nicest possible way.

 

Kate Beveridge of the Fever and Laura Clemesha (right) of the Firebirds fight for the ball.
Kate Beveridge of the Fever and Laura Clemesha (right) of the Firebirds fight for the ball. Paul Kane

Clemesha has also valued the advice passed on by Geitz and fellow former champion defender Clare McMeniman while serving a "fantastic apprenticeship" under them.

"The main thing I really tried to soak up from them was just all of their tactical and strategic knowledge," Clemesha said.

"It was very much me trying to make as many notes in my book as I could about their thoughts on certain shooters they've had plenty of experience against."

As a regular starter for the first time alongside new goal defence Kate Shimmin, it has been a baptism by fire, with Clemesha assigned the task of trying to curb two of the game's best shooters, Caitlin Bassett (Lightning) and Caitlin Thwaites (Magpies), in the opening three rounds.

"Coming up against two Australian Diamonds straight off the bat was definitely a big ask," the psychology student said.

"It was important for me to focus on my game and not get overwhelmed by the calibre of player I was up against.

"I've made adjustments every week, but there's plenty more improvement to come."

Laura Clemesha in action last season.
Laura Clemesha in action last season.

Clemesha is relishing the new partnership with Shimmin.

"Kate brings something really different, in regards to her tenacity and her timing, which I saw first hand at my first ever state competition in Adelaide when we came up against South Australia," Clemesha said.

"She got player of the tournament.

"To have her on my team now is pretty exciting. We're growing with every game."

She will tonight be given the task of stopping Sam Wallace when the Firebirds host arch-rival the NSW Swifts at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in their first battle since last year's ANZ Championship final.

"It's very exciting to have the Swifts come back into our home territory," Clemesha said. "There is that fantastic rivalry we've developed over the last few seasons.

"They are in a very similar situation to us - they've got a draw, a win and a loss. And quite a few young guns who have been waiting in the wings for a few seasons who are now out there and giving it a real crack, which makes them dangerous. They've definitely got something to prove."

 

Laura Geitz and Laura Clemesha in 2016 at the Firebirds.
Laura Geitz and Laura Clemesha in 2016 at the Firebirds.

 

While there has been speculation fellow Darling Downs product Geitz may return next season - the former skipper gave birth to baby boy Barney in February - Clemesha is focusing on the here and now.

"I'm not privy at all to Geitzy's plans. I'd be surprised if even she knew what she was doing," she said.

"I'm just so excited to have this opportunity now and just looking to try and assert myself in that starting goalkeeper position and do the best possible job to help our campaign."

News Corp Australia

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