Laura Langman has her sights firmly set on the present. Not even the thought of winning her second ANZ Championship premiership can distract her from performing her role for the New South Wales Swifts in their final match of the round robin season.
“The last few weeks of the season are always defining moments,” she said. “So we’re focussed on finishing off our last home game against the Steel. Personally, I haven’t even looked past that game, because ultimately the performance that we put out will set us up for the weeks to come.”
It’s an intensely focused yet unsurprising attitude from the 30-year-old, who made her debut for the New Zealand Silver Ferns in 2005. She has yet to miss a test match since, notching up 131 international caps for her country.
With a list of accomplishments longer than her trademark socks, she was seeking a new challenge for the 2016 season.
“As a netballer you want to see how far you can go – as a player, but also in terms of your personal growth,” she said.
“So I put my feelers out there and never in a million years did I think that a team of the calibre of the Swifts would come back to me. I wasn’t slow in getting pen to paper, because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
Langman has slotted into the Swifts’ formidable line up with astounding ease. While in recent years she has been seen more often in the Centre bib, this season she has headed back to her roots, playing a lot in Wing Defence.
One of the biggest challenges for players switching sides of the Tasman is adjusting to the style of defence. New Zealand teams favour a zone defence and Australians tend to employ a one-on-one style. When asked how she feels she’s adapted to the change, Langman laughs.
“Well you’d have to ask the big boss for an evaluation!” she said. “But it’s been fantastic learning to mould the two styles together. I think a hybrid-type style has real merit in our game. It was a baptism by fire and I’ve had to reel in my fishing tendencies!"
"At the end of the day, in those tight games, your ability to do your job and mark your player out of the game – that’s a contribution in itself. So it’s certainly shown me the skillset required to one-on-one beat your player, but also perform your role to the nth degree.”
While much is made of the differences between the way the Australian and New Zealand teams play and train, Langman believes the two countries are much more similar than most people think.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a big difference – not at all,” she said. “I think there are more similarities than differences. The differences lie more in the philosophies around the way each country interprets the game. In Australia there’s a big emphasis on agility and that correlates to the style of game that the Swifts and the other Australian teams play.
"Whereas in New Zealand, we really focus on our aerobic capacity and our ability to go 60 minutes plus. Neither is right or wrong, there’s definitely merits in both philosophies, but I think how we interpret the game comes out in the training methods, which has been really refreshing for me and also a great challenge.”
In her first season at the Swifts, Langman has also taken on the vice-captaincy and has stepped up to lead the team on a number of occasions when captain Kim Green has been forced out with injuries.
However, in her typically humble manner, Langman plays down the significance of her selection.
“I think it goes without saying in the Swifts environment, there are so many leaders within the team, that in all honesty, it’s probably just a designated title!” she said.
“But obviously very humbled by it considering I was a debutante in the team in a very new environment. To be considered a leader by your peers – there’s nothing quite like it. Whether it be at the Ferns or the Swifts, it doesn’t change the player or the person that I am."
"And that’s how I lead, so it was just a matter of being me and getting on with the job. And while it was player voted, I think it was probably a seven way tie at the top.”
The responsibilities of leadership positions in netball vary hugely between teams, depending on the personal styles and preferences of individual coaches and captains. While clearly a leader on court and at training, Langman sees her role as being a conduit between the team and management, preferring not to get involved with team selections.
“At the start of the season Kim and I discussed that part of our leadership style was distinguishing when we needed to be involved and when we didn’t,” she said. “With the playing line ups, that was an area we both agreed was best left up to our coaching staff. In terms of dynamics off court, we have a large involvement with that – ensuring the messages that are being interpreted at training are accurate, but the hard decisions we leave up to them!”
With the majority of the team’s focus on their upcoming match, Langman says there has still been room for some muted excitement about the future of the sport.
“I think there is an air of excitement in terms of where netball as a professional sport for women is going,” she said. “But the way we’ve discussed it has been around what potentially the competition will look like."
"What has been really impressive about our playing group is our commitment to 2016 – despite what could have been a massive distraction, everyone has remained focussed and committed to finishing off this season. I think it’s a sign of how ready we are as netball players to go professional – to go to that next level.”
See Laura in action this weekend
NSW Swifts v Southern Steel
Saturday, 2 July 2016
Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre
Match time: 5.00pm