EVEN Ruby Bakewell-Doran herself is still getting used to how far her netball journey came over the past 12 months.
This time last year Bakewell-Doran was preparing to enter her first Suncorp Super Netball season as a fulltime contracted player with the Queensland Firebirds.
Heading into the 2023 campaign, the 24-year-old not only has a full season of experience under her belt but she is also Australian Diamond No.188 after making her international debut against New Zealand in last year’s Constellation Cup.
A pre-season questionnaire asking for information on representative teams only highlighted how much changed for Bakewell-Doran.
“Where it asked 'have you ever represented Australia' my instant thing was 'no' because I've said no so many times but then I was like 'oh my gosh, I actually get to write Diamonds in this field', which was so cool,” the defender said.
“It definitely feels more secure but it’s almost more exciting. The first season was probably more daunting. It was sort of about proving yourself and now it’s just about getting better.
“It’s nice to have a really great foundation to then be working off rather than be at square one.”
The biggest takeaway Bakewell-Doran got from her time in the Diamonds environment, which also included being a training partner for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, was that as impressive as her 2022 was – it is just the start of her journey.
“You're never too good to not be humble,” Bakewell-Doran said.
“Some of the women in that environment are like the best of the best and they just walk around like they're just a normal human being. They do normal things. They have to work just as hard as anyone else.
“That was a big one.
“But also that you’ve always got a lot of room for improvement.
“It never stops for your entire career. There's always more that you can do. More that you can achieve.”
Hitting new heights and continuing to improve is something Bakewell-Doran is excited to strive towards this year under the stewardship of Firebirds Head Coach Bec Bulley.
There are obvious similarities with Bakewell-Doran’s athleticism, work ethic and agility and that of Bulley – a three-time premiership winner during her own career that included 42 Australia caps.
“Any coach, you can learn so much stuff from because they come with a new perspective and I think someone like Bec who obviously has experience at an elite level and was such a workhorse herself - I know that I'm in good hands, to the point when she's like, 'yeah, I'm happy', I know I will be really happy with how well I'm going,” she said.
“You know when you're getting a compliment from someone like her that it's warranted.”
With Ash Unie and Remi Kamo coming into the defensive third options for the Firebirds this season, Bakewell-Doran is the most experienced of the trio at Suncorp Super Netball level.
While that might have some externally viewing Bakewell-Doran as the leader of the defensive unit, she firmly feels inspiration and leadership can come from anywhere in the squad regardless of age or experience.
“You can't shy away. You can't hide in SSN or at Diamonds,” she said.
“When you're out on court, if you're not stepping up to go and win the ball, no one's going to do it for you.
“If you go out there and you do it, others will follow.
“Even Rav (Kim Ravaillion), all last year, she was like 'as soon as you get your first intercept, I'm ready to go' and it's the same when I see Gabs (Gabi Simpson) get one. It just lifts everyone.
“I don't ever think of it as 'I'm the boss' because I need their voices as much as they need mine.”