By Stacey Francis
The 2017 Suncorp Super Netball Season was always going to throw some surprises at the netball community and it was certainly a baptism of fire for the West Coast Fever, as they only won two games. One member of the team, however, had it worse than the others and experienced the cruellest side of sport.
Shannon Eagland, or Snoop to those that know her, had her season cruelly cut short when she completely ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Round 4 of the 2017 Suncorp Super Netball season whilst playing against the Vixens.
A gold medallist with the Australian Netball Team at the 2009 World Youth Championships, Shannon is no stranger to success. After stints at the Vixens and Firebirds, Shannon took a sabbatical from the top flight for a few seasons prior to joining Fever in 2017. Her time away and the journey to signing for Fever was filled with accolades, and according to Shannon, experiences that helped to shape her.
“Having had a taste of ANZ Championship I wasn’t willing to settle for second best and now I am here."
As a member of the ANL side Victorian Fury, who have won seven premierships in total, Shannon played an integral part in four of those titles which were consecutive (2013-2016). “Being in that successful team helped me develop as a player and an athlete both on the court and off the court. Coming from a team that had a lot of success, I was pretty keen to bring some of the attitudes and culture that I had experienced to the Fever environment,” Shannon explained.
2017 Hopes and The Injury
Shannon’s determination to succeed and give her best is infectious when you are with her. The standards she sets for herself and those around her are uncompromising. “Both on and off-court I want to be somebody that has a really good work ethic. So regardless of if it is something that I am good at or not I am someone that tries to put my best foot forward. My attitude is that if you put your mind to something you will be able to do it. That’s my approach to everything I do in life.”
As is often the case, once you have had a bite of the proverbial fruit you usually want more. “Having had a taste of ANZ Championship I wasn’t willing to settle for second best and now I am here. My hopes [for 2017] were to establish myself as a starting seven player, but to also achieve fitness and strength goals.”
Reflecting on her ACL injury, which to observers seemed rather innocuous at the time, she recalls being hopeful of a much more positive outcome. “I wasn’t sold that it was an ACL straight away, but I knew it wasn’t good. I had that half ounce of hope in my mind because it wasn’t an injury where I went down screaming in pain which is something that is quite common for the ACL.”
This ‘under-reaction’ to what is a major injury in the sport is the most organic sign of Shannon’s strength of character, despite receiving the confirmation almost immediately from the medical support team. Shannon’s reaction and behaviours that followed embody the selfless culture that she is helping to grow at West Coast Fever. “I cried, straight away, but I also wanted to keep that from the team because I knew that we had a game to win and a whole season ahead of us. I was one of 10 and at the end of the day we are still a club and we still had a job to do and we can’t have one person affecting what that job is which is to win.”
Highlights and Rehab
Shannon has attacked her rehab with the same dedication and passion that she showed throughout pre-season and on the court in the opening three weeks of play. Whilst Shannon experienced a season ending injury, this did not prevent her making her mark on the team, contributing strongly to building our culture, providing support and leadership whilst continuing to challenge the players from the side-lines. “From Round four onwards, it gave me a whole new perspective. What I saw from the club is that it is not just the 10 on the court it is our immediate support staff, the coaching team, physio, strength and conditioning and everyone upstairs [in the office]. Following my injury, every day I would have a conversation with someone who was happy to check in on me and ask how I was progressing. It is really nice to hear it from not just your nine other teammates but also the people in the wider Fever team.”
Shannon is the epitome of team and said that this year “I definitely learnt that I had to be very selfless. My contribution to the team couldn’t be on court anymore so I had to think of other ways to best contribute to the team. Sometimes that was in coaching, sometimes in feedback, sometimes just busting my gut to get back as strong and fit as possible so that I can be ready for next season.”
"The number one goal is getting back out on court with the team and to give everything I can to win a premiership in 2018.”
When asked who or what she couldn’t have lived without throughout the rehab process she gives a wry smile and a laugh and responds, “I probably have to say Will hey?!”
Will Frecheville and Shannon met in 2009 at the Uni Games where they were both playing netball. The pair attended Monash University, and of the eight years they have been together, they have only spent two of those living in the same city. Although much of their relationship has been long-distance, with Shannon living in Queensland or at the AIS in Canberra and Will in rural Victoria on the New South Wales border, they are now both happy to be living under the same roof. “Will quit his job and moved over [to Perth] with me at the start of the year and if he wasn’t there to fill up my Game Ready, stick another ice pack on my knee or cook me dinner and clean up after me I would have had a hell of a hard time. He has definitely made the rehab process easier.”
To see Shannon on court for Fever in 2018, secure a West Coast Fever Membership here!
ACL rehabilitation is an extensive and multi-faceted one with the athlete usually being kept out of competitive sport for approximately nine months. Much of the process is slow due to the need to ensure that muscle strength in the quadricep and hamstring is regained and that the knee is structurally stable. Although the ability to run returns relatively early in the rehab process the demands of a sport like netball require progressions to sport-specific movements, acceleration and deceleration and agility to be made gradually.
Shannon said “I have spent a lot of time in the gym and rehabbing, so I do want to keep getting strong but strong with the mindset that I have to come back faster, more powerful and more agile. Ticking those boxes in a strength and conditioning capacity. The number one goal is getting back out on court with the team and to give everything I can to win a premiership in 2018.”
Her attitude towards the lengthy rehabilitation is summed up by a favourite quote, “I have always lived very loosely by the quote ‘it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog’ so I definitely have that mentality. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you work bloody hard you can get what you want. So I go into everything giving it my all and working as hard as I can and I know if I do that and put my best foot forward hopefully that will lead to success.”
With the growing professionalism of netball and the demands that it has on your time, it is easy as rookie of the game toneglect professional development and off-court endeavours. Shannon reflects, “My teaching qualification is something that I am pretty happy to have and it is nice to be in this environment and have that qualification under my belt. At the end of the day, your time in netball is limited, although, I obviously want to extend that as much as possible. But when I am 40 years old and there is no chance that I can be running around a netball court at the top level, it is nice to have my teaching qualification already in my pocket as something that I can fall back on once netball is finished.”
In the training environment Shannon is no-nonsense but with a calm demeanour. A manner not too dissimilar to when she is away from ‘work’. “I am a pretty chilled out person away from the netball but saying that I am a person who likes to keep myself busy. Being a qualified teacher I try to stick my foot in the teaching door as much as netball allows me to and every now and again I like to get my hands on a few arts and crafts, some activities on the side to keep me busy.”
Shannon is well on the road to recovery, becoming an even better player and contributing significantly to the team environment and culture. We are excited about the contributions that she will look to make both off and (even more so) on the court in 2018.