Times up, says Mel
By STEVE SPINKS
FORMER Mullumbimby netballer Melanie Groves has retired from the sport following the Queensland Firebirds' heartbreaking exit from the Commonwealth Bank Trophy last Friday night.
The Firebirds, who this year recorded their most wins in a season, fell just short of the final four and semi-final action following their 65-44 loss to the Melbourne Phoenix in Brisbane.
"It was a bummer to go out like that," Groves told The Northern Star.
"But we had a record number of wins (eight) this season, so it wasn't a step backwards."
At the peak of her powers as a defender, Groves decided earlier this year that it was time to focus on something different.
"I've been with the Firebirds for seven seasons," she said.
"A lot of time and effort goes into it and I got married at the end of last year so it's time for a different path in life. The body is also starting to feel pretty old."
The 86-game veteran, who started her netball career with the Mullumbimby Legends as a seven-year-old, was one of three players to retire from the Firebirds.
Good friends Karen Clarke and Belinda Dever also gave it away last Friday night.
"Belinda and Karen have both been there since I started so it was nice to finish with them," Groves said. All will miss out on the inaugural Tasman Trophy, a competition including five Australian and five New Zealand teams, which starts next year. A team from Brisbane has been included.
"It sounds like when you go to New Zealand they will jam two or three games into one trip, so it won't be too good on the 2body," 1Groves said.
"I hope the Australian girls will get paid better. New Zealand players are on great money. An average player over there earns something like $30,000."
Following her retirement, Groves said she would make a clean break from playing for a couple of years. "I don't think I could play social netball next year," she chuckled. "I think I would take it too seriously and get sent off.
"But I told Vicki (Wilson, the Queensland coach) that I would be happy to help out any young defenders coming through."