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Jess Shaw

Image: Morgan Harlow

Jess Shaw almost quit netball two years ago but is now enjoying the best form of her career.

The wing attack is a key cog in the Severn Stars machine that has taken the Netball Super League by storm, rising to a surprise sixth-place finish last season and carrying that form into 2024, where they currently sit third.

Shaw has been an almost ever-present member of one of the Super League’s most exciting teams and it is the move to Worcester to work under head coach Jo Trip that she credits with revitalising her performances on court and love for the sport.

“I was at a point in my career where I was questioning whether I was going to continue playing netball,” she revealed. “I wasn’t enjoying it but at Stars last year I found that love again.

“My confidence has returned being a part of Stars and because of Jo and the environment. I have just been enjoying it and when you are enjoying things, that is when you play your best netball. I am thriving and that is because of the environment at Stars.”

Jess Shaw

Image: Ben Lumley

Part of Shaw’s success has stemmed from an injury-free run since making the switch from Team Bath, with three operations in her early career meaning progress and momentum was hard to come by.

But that has also come with a fresh perspective on her career inside and outside of netball, meaning that should the worst happen again, she is steeled by an identity that extends beyond the court.

“It’s having that right balance, thinking about the player as an individual and not a netball player at all times,” she added.

“Now I’ve got the balance in terms of training and playing, enjoying that element, but also outside of netball I’m thriving as well and enjoying that element of my life.

“It’s important it’s not all netball as that’s when it can get quite hard and you’re probably not enjoying it as much.”

Shaw has learned the need for balance the hard way, having battled injuries since her teenage years, something she in part puts down to over-training after making her Super League debut for Yorkshire Jets aged just 15.

She said: “It is hard when you are away from the court for that long and thinking ‘Am I going to come back from that?’. It can be extremely challenging and it gets to the point of ‘How many times can I get injured?’.

“When I have been injured in the past, I have really struggled with that mentally. It is about setting small targets and having a support network around you to help you get back to the court.”

Shaw’s mental resilience has been a key theme of her hugely impressive return to form at Stars, with the 27-year-old also learning the power of a support network through the management of her diabetes.

A diagnosis aged just 13 threatened to throw her career off course, but Shaw has embraced her condition in recent years and found the positives of sharing her experiences.

“Until last year I have always hidden it quite a bit,” she said. “I didn’t acknowledge I had it at first and it is only over the past few years that I have been like ‘I do have this, and this is how I need to manage it to be the best version of me physically and mentally’.

“I was probably a bit naive growing up with it, I wouldn’t tell people that I had it. I have seen other athletes and people on social media and they are managing it so well, that helped me.

“It’s hard but having that support network around me has really helped me start to post about it and the things I have received back are really positive, it’s actually helping people.

“You can still reach the top, it’s hard and you’re going to have your different challenges but it’s not stopping you.”

 

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Shaw’s move to Stars has also been key to her newfound openness, with the wing attack now keen to spread the word and show others what is possible.

“It’s making sure you have the people around you to support you but also the coach to believe,” she added.

“I’ve had it with coaches and environments in the past where I have not been able to or felt comfortable enough to be as open but at Stars, I have been able to be very honest with Jo and the team which has definitely benefited me.

“With any condition, it is being able to be open and know that there is not going to be any kind of repercussion. That’s really important.”

With new confidence translating to strong form on court, Shaw is now focused on achieving as much as possible with Stars this season, as well as focusing on her own personal ambitions.

She added: “I want to go as far as I can with my netball. I want to be able to perform consistently, perform at that top level and be proud of how I am performing out there because then I think anything is possible.

“This season we obviously want to make top four, we want to make that final, we are really striving for that. I just want to enjoy it, thrive, and try and get as far as I can.

“I don’t feel like I have performed how I am now for a very long time so I just want to keep performing and keep pushing on.”

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