Renae Ingles loving her Vixens return after unexpected comeback

Renae Ingles loving her Vixens return after unexpected comeback

Comeback: Renae Ingles' shock return has coincided with the Vixens finding their best form.

Comeback: Renae Ingles' shock return has coincided with the Vixens finding their best form.Credit:Grant Treeby

When Renae Ingles strapped her twins in for the flight home from America last month, playing Super Netball was far from her priority list.

First and foremost came toddlers Milla and Jacob, plus her NBA star husband Joe Ingles, and while the former Australian Diamonds star hoped to play in the state competition, her netball ambitions didn’t extend beyond that.

Ingles retired from the top level in 2017 so her family could remain together in the US while Joe plays with Utah Jazz, having signed a lucrative multi-year deal with the club.


But netball is unexpectedly back in her life, and three games into a shock comeback she is treasuring every minute on the court.

Last month, when the family left Salt Lake City for their winter breakin Melbourne, Ingles plannedto make a return to the Victorian Netball League with Melbourne University Lightning and possibly do some training with the Vixens.

‘‘We arrived home in Melbourne on a Tuesday morning and, as far as netball goes, Joe and myself were so exhausted. I remember saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to play netball at 8.20pm tomorrow night’,’’ she said.

‘‘Joe said, ‘Yeah, that’s probably not a great idea’, but Wednesday night rolled around and I thought, I can play netball tonight – it didn’t matter how tired or jet-lagged, I was going to play.

‘‘That was my only plan in regard to playing netball, as I missed being out on the court and being around a team and that camaraderie.

‘‘That is what I missed the most while I was in Salt Lake City.’’

Ingles will tell you she was pretty rusty in that return game on May 16, but Victorian netball observers say she hardly looked like a player who had been away from the elite level.

‘‘I felt really good,’’ Ingles said. ‘‘I was rusty, but I had a half at wing defence and a half at centre and in the last quarter our coach yelled out to me to ask if I was doing all right, and I said I wanted to finish the game out.

‘‘I was pretty terrified at how I would feel getting out of bed the next morning, but surprisingly I dealt with it really well.’’

The next morning, Ingles had a call from the Vixens asking her to come in as a training partner and she jumped at the chance.

At the time, wing defence Chloe Watson was battling a minor knee problem, and a week later Ingles was drafted in to the travelling squad to play the Giants in Sydney on May 27.

Ingles played the second half of the loss to the Giants and a week later Watson revealed she was expecting her first child and would be stepping away from netball immediately.

Suddenly, there was a spot open to Ingles for the rest of the season and she hasn’t missed a quarter since, with her defensive efforts in a win over top team West Coast Fever last weekend earning praise from both coaches.

‘‘She has gone up another level today and the more she is out there the better she will become,’’ Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said post-game.

In Utah, Ingles does the bulk of the family duties to allow Joe to focus on getting the best from his time with the Jazz.

He recently completed a 93-game season that was acclaimed as the best of his career. But since she returned to the court, Joe, already an attentive father, has become the highest-paid stay-at-home dad in Australia.

‘‘Joe loves his Daddy Daycare role,’’ Ingles said.

‘‘He is getting quality time with them that he doesn’t get during the NBA season, when he has to come and go so much.

Renae Ingles with her twins two years ago.

Renae Ingles with her twins two years ago. Credit:Justin McManus

‘‘But it is actually really nice. A couple of times at the end of the day we have sat down and I can see he has a bit more of an appreciation for the other side of what happens during his season.

‘‘Juggling the kids is hard work and while we have very easy-going kids, those are long days, as any parent will tell you.’’

Ingles plans to play out the season, then the family will head back to Salt Lake City for another marathon NBA campaign.

But her return has coincided with the Vixens finding their best form. They are still chasing a place in the top four and, with seven games left, have their future in their own hands. They play Collingwood Magpies at Margaret Court Arena today in a game both sides will be desperate to win.

Ingles, 31, still competes as fiercely as anyone, and she is savouring every minute, as she can never be sure if the chance to play Super Netball will come again.

‘‘To be back in my home state, representing the Vixens, whom I played for when I started my career, just warms my heart,’’ Ingles said.

‘‘The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect and I’m just thankful that I still get to do this.

‘‘I will never take this opportunity for granted and, given that I had retired and know how much I missed netball – it just makes it that little more special.’’

Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.

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