Resilient Firebird a makes it to 100
Few have made dominating a netball match look easier than Queensland Firebirds goal shooter Romelda Aiken.
But forging one of the great careers in the ANZ Championship has had its share of difficulties for the 196cm Jamaican international.
On the eve of becoming the first Firebird to reach 100 games, the two-time competition MVP (2008, 2009) and all-time leading goalscorer (3670) has reflected on the more trying times, albeit time that have helped shape the imposing player she has become.
First there was the battle with homesickness, and more recently, being caught up in the lies and deception of an online stalker.
After helping Jamaica win bronze at the 2007 world championships, Aiken arrived in Brisbane as a 19-year-old for the start of the then fledgling trans-Tasman netball competition the following year.
"At times I was questioning whether I had made the right decision to come here," the now 26-year-old recalled to APN.
"It's been really hard being away from my family and missing all the important celebrations and stuff.
"The first three years of moving here was really sad. But the girls (her teammates) held my hand along the way.
"It was all worth it in the end."
Being taught to "make the most out of every day", especially in her netball career, by her mother Ermina also helped get Aiken through.
"My mum is the strongest person I know. She's been through some rough times," she said.
"We keep in touch every day. She's always pushing me."
Aiken said it helped having chosen Queensland as her destination to fulfil her professional dream.
"The weather is great - like what we have back home," she says. "And the people are really friendly."
Unfortunately for Aiken, however, one was far too friendly, to the point he harassed her through the various forms of social media during 2013 and early 2014, leading to him being jailed for three years.
"There's been some curve balls thrown at me," she said. "I've learnt a lot. I think, in the end, it's how well you grow as a person."
She can look back on being a member of Queensland's championship-winning team in 2011 - and being named the grand final player of the match - but the Firebirds have lost the past two deciders to the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Melbourne Vixens, respectively.
"Maybe it's third time lucky," Aiken says. "We're looking good. We can take this championship out, but we can only take it one game at a time, making sure everyone plays their part in the team."
For the round-one clash with the West Coast Fever tomorrow at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Firebirds have added more attacking firepower - Gretel Tippett from the NSW Swifts and newcomer Beryl Friday from north Queensland - to back up Aiken and goal attack Amorette Wild.
"I think they push Ames and I a lot more," Aiken said. "We can't be complacent on the court, 'cause someone's there breathing down our necks. But it's exactly what we want - no one being comfortable with their positions."
Aiken said inspirational captain Laura Geitz was "fit and ready to go" after recovering from minor knee surgery at the end of last year, and the side was aiming to further improve its dominant 12-2 win-loss record over the Fever.
"Everyone is really excited about the game coming up tomorrow," Aiken said. "We just can't wait to get out on court.
"We all want to be playing on grand final day again, but this time holding that trophy."
Today: Thunderbirds v Magic.
Tomorrow: Firebirds v Fever, Vixens v Pulse, Steel v Swifts.
Monday: Tactix v Mystics.