The ‘smiling assassin’ of Varsity Netball is an excellent way to describe Tuks’ Venetia Grobler on-court exploits as a goal shooter.
When Grobler plays, she seems to be continually smiling. At the rate, the numbers on the scoreboard keep on changing during Tuks encounters one can expect she has just reason for doing so. In their first two games, she hardly missed when shooting for goal.
The 20-year-old B.Ed Senior Phase and FET student, however, explains she has a good reason for being ‘friendly’. One of the secrets to being a good goal shooter is to never let the defence think that they are getting the better of you.
“Defenders tend to get upset when you remain kind to them, especially when they go out of their way trying to intimidate you,” Grobler says.
“Smiling is my way of letting them know they can try their utmost; it does not faze me. It is also a way to communicate with my teammates, letting them know I am in control of what is happening in the circle and I appreciate the hard work they do to get the ball to me.”
Officially, netball is supposed to be a non-contact sport but according to Grobler that is only according to the rules. The reality of what really happens on the court differs somewhat.
“Last year, I played a tournament in Africa [the Africa Union Sport Council Region 5 U20 Games] where I got slapped quite often through the face. I was forced to retaliate. During one friendly encounter, the goalkeeper was intent on stepping on my ankles to try and injure me. She eventually did succeed. The fight in the circle is never all smiles.”
Grobler admits there are the times she does still get rattled. It usually happens after she has missed three or so consecutive shots at goal.
“My secret when it happens is to think back to my playing days for Hoërskool Pretoria-Noord. My hands are a dead giveaway when I panic. When our fitness coach, Wesley Barnard, used to see that happening he immediately told me to take a deep breath and relax.
“Now, when things tend to go awry during a game, I just imagine him standing next to the court telling me to relax. It helps because then I tend to calm down.”
New Zealand’s goal shooter, Maria Folau, is one player that genuinely inspires Grobler.
“You can’t help but be impressed when you watch her play because she brims with confidence all the time. There are times when she turns around even before the ball has gone through the net. I aspire to play with the same confidence. But there is still a lot of hard work to be done before I will be able to do so.”
The closest Grobler came to experience that ‘wow’ moment during a game was last year when Tuks played VUT in the Varsity Netball tournament. Tuks scored 110 goals.
“To have been part of that game, knowing I really contributed to setting a record is something I will remember for some to come.”
Tuks, and Grobler’s, next Varsity Netball assignment is on Sunday in Port Elizabeth when they play UWC. On Monday they are playing Maties, also at the Madibaz Indoor Sports Centre.
Tuks squad (for Madibaz mini-bumper weekend): 5 Marlize de Bruin (vice-captain), 16 Anique Grobler, 13 Venetia Grobler, 8 Akosua Mensah, 7 Lungile Mthembu, 9 Tracey Mthunzi, 2 Tshina Mdau (captain), 1 Mbali Ntuli, 4 Chantelle Swart, 3 Jamie van Wyk, 6 Danielle van Zyl, 11 Jasmine Ziegelmeier.
Coach: Jenny van Dyk
Tickets are available via the Varsity Sports App (iOS and Android) and here: https://varsitysportsa.plankton.mobi/ – while match updates will be available on @varsitysportsSA social channels.
By Willem de Swardt (TuksSport Media)