West Coast Fever prepare to be the hunted following fairytale premiership

West Coast Fever players celebrate winning the Super Netball Grand Final James Worsfold/Getty Images

For the first time, the West Coast Fever will be going into the 2023 season as the reigning premiers, after a historic 2022 Premiership win saw the side lift the trophy for the first time in the club's 25-year history.

The fairytale run into the finals after defeating the Melbourne Vixens in the first final to secure a spot into the Grand Final had the city of Perth hoping that their side could bring home the silverware for the first time.

Fever captain Courtney Bruce said that the historic win was just as much for the Green Army and the players that have come before them as it was for the side that stood on the podium on the first Sunday in July.

"25 years in the making for us in the West," Bruce told ESPN. "So, it's a reward obviously for the club and the team and our Oriels family before us and the Western Australia community that's stuck behind us."

It was a stunning run, having knocked off the minor premiers in the Melbourne Vixens twice in a fortnight with an average margin of 10 points. Bruce said that the side did their homework on how to shut the Vixens down.

"We hadn't had the consistency throughout the season and we knew we had to find that going into the finals. We honestly just did our homework on Vixens so that we kind of knew what they were going to do and how to counteract that, to put our two best performances out in finals is exactly what Dan [Ryan] and the club wanted, so being able to do that was fantastic.

"2023 is a new year so we've kind of put that behind us and are excited for the season."

The Fever will now go into 2023 as the hunted, with every side in the competition keenly awaiting their chance to take down the reigning champions, both in the regular season and in the finals. But according to Bruce it's not a new feeling, with teams always eager to test themselves against goaler Jhaniele Fowler.

"We are quite used to it now, when you've got a player like Jhaniele who is such a target, everyone wants to stop Jhaniele from shooting 60 goals," Bruce told ESPN.

"I think that makes us a hunted team anyway and how consistent we've been in the finals over the last couple of years. So, I think it's about riding the pressure and riding the wave that's going to come with that and not getting too caught up in it all."

The Fever head into the 2023 season with just one change, with England international Stacey Francis-Bayman hanging up the dress at seasons close. As a result the Fever have brought former Firebird and Queensland product Kim Jenner into the fold with Bruce revealing she sees a bit of herself in the newest recruit in the way Jenner goes about it on court.

"I love Kimmy on and off the court, she's a great human but a phenomenal player and I think hopefully she's just going to go and get better and better in our environment.

"I think she reminds me of myself quite a bit, she plays with a lot of flair and a bit of freedom and really hunts the ball. So hopefully just allowing her to bring her best version every time she steps out on the court, and she looks really good in green. So super excited to have her."

The combination of Bruce and Jenner in the defensive circle will be an electric one, despite the pair not having a lot of time to develop over the pre-season the combination is sure to win plenty of ball back.

"I think when we're in there, there's a lot of hunting and a lot of winning ball that can be done so it's just about building that combo and that connection. We haven't had that much time together but when she's out there she's absolutely incredible to watch, she's so fast and so athletic."

The inclusion of Jenner allows more flexibility to the Fever defensive end which could allow Bruce to spend more time out at goal defence, which Bruce believes will bring the best out of the Fever defenders.

"We can have the two talls, we can play Rudi [Ellis] back and can shift me out [into goal defence] and put Kim or Sunday out in that wing defence, which is quite a tall and daunting defensive end.

"We can rotate Sunday and Kim into that goal defence position, so it gives us all a lot of flexibility like we had with Stacey Francis- Bayman too. We want it to be competitive, we want to challenge each other, and I think that's the most exciting thing about this defensive end at the moment."

The Fever will kick off their title defence on Saturday when they take on the Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena in a highly anticipated Grand Final rematch with Bruce looking forward to opening the season in front of the Green Army.

"I think it's going to be exciting, just to be at home for round one is really great, we don't often get a round one at home and the Vixens are such a formidable team, they are consistent in the way they play.

"So, I'm excited to come up against them and see what's in store for the rest of the year."