Geva Mentor’s star burns as brightly as ever, after receiving eight offers across three different countries to continue her decorated playing career. Following Collingwood’s demise the goal keeper has been in hot demand, and with one eye on the future, she’s accepted a deal to play in England’s Super Netball League. Mentor is excited by her new club of choice, although specifics can’t be announced until after the World Cup.
While Australia has been home for the last 15 years, Mentor has been considering a move back to the country of her birth for some time. Her elite career began in England as a 16 year old, and the global superstar believes it’s time to give back to netball there, and the fans who’ve followed her so loyally. “I’m very much about the story and I think it’s beautiful to come back to where it all started, hopefully still playing at the top of my game in the English Super League,” she said.
“I wanted to put my hand up and say that while I was fortunate to have offers from all three competitions, I choose to play here in the Super League. I want to add value and contribute to a team here, but also to be a part of making sure that English netball is in a great place.
“There has been interest from Super League clubs for a number of years now, and I always felt that I’d know when the timing was right. I could have seen myself playing in the SSN for another couple of years, but I have to keep the bigger picture in mind.”
As someone who has been an elite athlete for more than two decades, that bigger picture now includes life after netball. While developing a future off court career is part of it, Mentor is also keen to be closer to her ‘other half’, given theirs is a long-distance relationship. While Frenchman Florian Christ has been able to join her down under for a brief period of time, he’s based in Strasbourg, just a short plane ride from England but half a world away from Melbourne.
Mentor explained, “We did find it very tough this year with the distance, and what we went through this season at Collingwood made it even trickier. He’s super supportive and wants me to make the decision for myself and have no regrets. I have done that, but also with what’s best for our future in mind.”
With four UK based offers on the table, choosing a new club wasn’t easy, but her final decision felt right. Mentor wanted to be part of building a legacy, and the coach sealed the deal.
“Her approach really resonated with me. The conversations we had, the holistic approach, the team ethos, her growth mindset. I loved everything she was doing.”
“I like to play for my coach and I’m very excited to work with her – I’ve admired her for a long time.”
While Mentor carefully considered her choices, her mind was made up quickly. While being organised is part of her DNA, she wanted it finalised so she could focus on the Netball World Cup, plus give her new club time to set up their roster.
“I know when I was looking around a few years ago, you do want to know what other players you will be working with. This way, things are settled for me and I can move on to the World Cup and what my future looks like, but it helps the club to put pieces into play.”
While Mentor is dealing with the mix of emotions that any major life upheaval brings, Collingwood’s demise also took a significant toll on her. In May, the club announced that they were withdrawing from Suncorp Super Netball League at season’s end, leaving the team in limbo. She said, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I think only those of us in that group understands what it’s like to play out a season knowing that almost, what’s the point?
“You can find little things like playing for contracts next year and playing for pride, but at the end of the day when it feels like your club has seen that there is no value or worth in going forwards, it’s hard to find what your drive is. Where the pride is, in wearing your club colours.
“We pushed through for each other, and there were almost thirty of us that went through that when you add in staff as well.”
A stalwart while it all unravelled, it took some time afterwards for Mentor to let go of the burden that she and co-captain Ash Brazill particularly carried. She explained, “The last month was crazy and Brazzy and I fielded a lot of the emotions that the girls were going through. We almost didn’t have a chance to process it for ourselves, because we were in protection mode and supporting the girls who were going through a mix of emotions from grief to anger to frustration.
“I had a week or two in Australia before I flew into Strasbourg to spend a few days with Flo. It was there that I realised how much I’d been holding on to things, and I was finally able to relax and realise the stress that we were under. He’d been out there with me for a couple of weeks, and I apologised to him. I wasn’t insensitive, but I just had no time to spend with him, and was so focused on others that I didn’t really look after those people that were supporting me.”
With one last English campaign ahead of her, Mentor has just finished a simulation week in Nottingham ahead of the 2023 Netball World Cup. Four participating teams, including the England As, and the English and Jamaican Men’s teams, took part in a round robin style tournament, followed by finals. Mentor said, “It was almost like playing in the second week of the World Cup, so it was really valuable for us. And in the Jamaican Suns is Kurt Dale, Jodi-Ann Ward’s partner who plays goal attack and wing attack, so it was nice to catch up with him.”
When the World Cup is finished, Mentor will pack up her life in Australia and polish off her teaching degree before heading back to England. The change will take some adjustment – for one thing, there’s the weather, while training tends to be at more unappealing hours of the evening. The netball focus is also substantially different.
“When you are in Australia your first priority away from netball is still for that club and team, whereas over here it feels like the choices you make are more for yourself and your club is part of that.
“So I’m hoping that while the training regime will be different, I will still be able to dedicate as much as I can to it. I’m at the tail end of my career but I still want to be cutting it with the youngsters in my team. When I can’t do that session or I’m on the bike because we are preserving Geva, that’s the time I’ll retire. But getting my head around a 6 to 8 pm training time will be different.”
While the hours might be less consuming, it does give Mentor time to follow other career opportunities. Nothing is off the table, and she’s very much hoping to reconnect with the English netball world. “That could involve some netball workshops, and giving back to the really supportive community that has followed my journey from afar. As my other half is French, I’d like to get back into the classroom and learn some French too, and that will help open up the doors when I do hang up my dress, whether it’s teaching, teaching English as a second language, or teaching sport to French kids.”
Mentor is okay with the mix of emotions she’s currently experiencing. Sadness to be leaving Australia, and all that it’s given her, behind, but excitement for the adventure ahead. And while she may have played her last game down under, Mentor promises not to be a stranger.
“Australia has a firm hold on my heart and I will be back regularly even if I don’t end up living there in the future. I’ll still tap in, hopefully deliver some workshops and get around to community and grass roots netball which has always been a big driver for me.
“I want to do my part to make sure that netball there is in the best possible place, and I’m super grateful for everything it’s given me.”