Jacqui Newton Cardiff Dragons

DERBY, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Nia Jones and Jacqui Newton of Cardiff Dragons pose during the Netball Super League Media Day Portrait Session at the Radisson Blu Hotel, East Midlands Airport on February 02, 2024 in Derby, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images for England Netball)

Cardiff Dragons’ Jacqui Newton Reaches For The Stars, The Play-Offs, And Glamorgan Cricket

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By Graham Thomas

Cardiff Dragons goal defence Jacqui Newton insists the team can still make it to the Netball Super League play-offs for the first time in 11 years.

Newton – one of three players either born or raised in Australia at the Welsh franchise – is convinced a victory away at fourth-placed Severn Stars on Sunday can revitalise their play-off bid.

Dragons are currently sixth in the table, but a win in Worcester would cut the gap between themselves and Stars to a single point.

“We absolutely still believe we can make the top four and we’re going to give it a real crack,” said Newton, whose team were held to a surprise 54-all draw against bottom club Strathclyde Sirens last week.

“We were disappointed with the draw last week because we let things slip from having a good lead early on.

“That was our second drawn game of the season and it would be nice to have earned two wins instead, but I still have belief and the team still has belief.

“We’re a good little team and although we don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves, we think we can still be involved come the end of June.”

Newton, 27, joined Dragons at the start of the season and linked up with her former Victorian Fury teammate Elle McDonald as well as Leah Middleton, who were both born in the UK but moved Down Under at a young age.

The trio are coached by another Australian, the hugely experienced former Australian Diamonds national team coach, Jill McIntosh.

Newton’s decision to re-locate to Wales was a sudden one, taken after the abrupt collapse of her former Australian Super League club, Collingwood.

The Melbourne-based operation folded last year after financial problems, an experience that Newton, who was a full-time professional with the Magpies, says was a difficult one to go through.

“It certainly puts things into perspective and makes you cherish any opportunities you do have in sport,” she added.

“We were told there was a two-week review period happening and then, suddenly told, ‘it’s not good news. It’s over, basically.’”

“Professional sport is cut-throat. You’re in a competitive environment every day and I guess you have to use that as motivation.

“There were a few of us who banded together and tried to make the final few games as memorable as we could, but it was difficult to go through.”

Since joining the Dragons, Newton has played in all 11 matches so far for her new team.

The qualified teacher is near the top of the class when it comes to Super League statistics for most intercepts, deflections and gains, as she is in the top six for all three categories.

“I have really enjoyed my time so far in Wales and playing in Super League,” added Newton.

“The top teams here are just as good as any in Australia, although maybe the depth isn’t quite yet the same.

“When I first played matches here, I was getting penalised a bit more than in Australia because there is maybe a little more restraint on court here than back home.

“I’ve got used to that, though, and overall it’s been a really positive experience. The league seems to be growing and although it’s not quite the fully professional sport we have in Australia, with every game televised, it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Newton plans to return to Australia to catch up with family at the end of the season, although she is open to extending her deal with Dragons.

“I have really enjoyed my time in Super League and I definitely wouldn’t rule out another year.

“But with the restructuring and professionalism that is coming, I think teams have held off on agreeing signings for now, so we will have to see what happens.”

In the meantime, Newton is looking forward to satisfying some of her other sporting appetites by watching cricket at Glamorgan’s Sophia Gardens and is looking forward to the arrival of the county’s Australian Test star, Marnus Labuschagne.

“I like Cardiff because it is a sporting city, like Melbourne. I like the fact that people walk around Cardiff in their rugby gear and the passion of rugby fans during the Six Nations was obvious to see.

“But I’m also a big cricket fan, so I am hoping to get along to watch Glamorgan when I get a chance and maybe I’ll catch Marnus Labuschagne.

“We just need it to stop raining.”

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