Ready for a showdown

18 March 2011

Written by: Ashley Fritsch

Sunday marks the third annual Netball’s Festival of Stars match, a half-hour game organised by ANZ Championship and offering $7,500 to the winning team’s charity.

This year it’s drawn in a star team of celebrities in support of beyondblue and the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). Leading the latter’s team – the Holden Barina Spark NBCF Team – is funnyman and ABC presenter Adam Spencer, who says he’s focused, fit and raring to go.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever been fitter,’ the comedian assures. ‘My preparation has been quite strenuous, but the important thing for me now is just to taper and play out the game plan many times in my head.

‘The key qualities that will make me a standout on the day will be my intensity, focus, passion and my calves — I’ve been doing a lot of squats.’

Asked if he has had to follow a strict dietary regime, Adam says ‘it’s only Wednesday, let’s not get too carried away here.

‘However, people who know me well will notice a real change in my dietary intake probably around 8pm Saturday and throughout Sunday morning, to show that I really am focused on this.’

After suffering a loss in last year’s Festival of Stars match, Adam says he was left emotionally scarred from yet another defeat and is determined to claim victory this year, once and for all.

‘It’s been a long burning fire since last year’s defeat. I’ve had back to back defeats in this tournament,’ Adam says.

‘I’ve watched the reply of last year’s game, three or four times a day, every day. There were about three months after the match where I couldn’t look at the game at all; since then I’ve started watching a couple minutes at random, then from about four months ago I’ve been able to watch the entire match.’

‘I’ve mainly been focusing on how good I was, rather than anything else, but I’ve also been looking for areas in some of our players’ games where they could improve.’

As the only player to come back for a third attempt at winning the Festival of Stars match, Adam has been given the prestigious accolade of captain as he leads his team mates against Charlie Pickering and his beyondblue team.

‘I am the best man for the job,’ Adam says.

‘If anything, being team captain has just helped me focus and “up” my training regime. In fact I’m doing a few push-ups while I’m conducting this interview…I need to draw breath.’

However, it seems Adam won’t be taking any supporting or constructive advice from former Festival of Stars team captain and netball icon, Liz Ellis, any time soon.

‘Liz doesn’t answer any of my calls or emails, but I respect that, the way she’s not chosen to crowd me out is good,’ he says.

It appears Adam still holds a grudge after the 2009 Festival of Stars match where Ellis lost the penalty shot, resulting in her team’s loss.

‘I haven’t been shy in telling Liz there are areas in which the entire defensive unit could improve their performance,’ he says.  ‘And I’ve told her about the things I think she could do better, clearly in each of these past events we’ve scored enough goals to win, but our defence is clearly like a sieve.’

In a strategic plan to lead his team to victory this year, Adam says he has a few tactics up his sleeve that will not only impress his celebrity-filled team, but also act as a huge threat to his opposition.

‘First of all, confirming venue and time is important, but I’ve  already done that so by my standards I’m already a long way ahead,’ he says.

‘And I know the NSW Swifts have been trying all year to get Rebecca Bulley, Mo’onia Gerrard and Sonia Mkoloma into two defensive positions, so I can reveal my team this Sunday will be pioneering a radical breakthrough game plan that will become the template for the Swifts; to have three world class defenders playing in only two positions.

‘I can’t give away too much, but the other day I was carrying around my three-year- old daughter on my shoulders and realised that strictly only my feet were touching the ground …that’s when I had the breakthrough in understanding our new defensive system.’

In a line-up of Iron Men, lifeguards, newsreaders, a former Miss Universe Australia and Australian Idol contestant, Adam’s NBCF team is quite a good looking and talented bunch, yet he fears the reaction one of his team mates could receive on-court .

‘The first thing is keep the Iron Men away from Laura Dundovic,’ Adam says.

‘Obviously, as captain I’ll be taking her under my wing. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Laura on the radio and she’s a very intelligent and impressive person and I’m sure she’ll be a distraction for a lot of people on the day. I’m sure she will join with the same steely eyed resolve she brought to almost winning the crown of Miss Universe.

‘We will be Masters of the Universe come one o’clock this Sunday.’

With an air of confidence and his eyes fixed firmly on victory, Adam says in all seriousness, the ANZ Championship’s Netball’s Festival of Stars celebrity charity match is a tremendous event that he loves being a part of.

‘The past Festival of Stars events have been so much fun and I love doing this for charity, it’s for a great cause and I’m looking forward to it,’ Adam says.

However, there is one man standing in the way of Adam claiming his first and prestigious win of the Festival of Stars, and that is Charlie Pickering, co-host of Channel Ten’s 7pm Project and captain of the beyondblue team. Adam has a message for Pickering in the lead up to Sunday’s game.

‘I remember Charlie Pickering got a lot of press last year for bringing back metrosexual male haircuts,’ he says. ‘I’ve heard Charlie Pickering is one of these sophisticated new age guys who “reads books” in dark clothes, well you won’t have any fancy pants library when you’re on centre court Pickering. There’s no desk to hide under!’

ANZ Championship Netball’s Festival of Stars is this Sunday 20th March, prior to the blockbuster match between the NSW Swifts and the unbeaten Queensland Firebirds.

Tickets to the event have sold out, however netball fans can catch all the action of both matches LIVE on TEN and ONE this Sunday.

Sarah Baker is a La Tobe University journalism graduate and can be found blogging over at Eyes Wide Open.  This article was also published on the ANZ Championship’s website.