Queensland Firebirds rising star Jemma Mi Mi has been making the most of coronavirus lockdown in Brisbane.
Queensland Firebirds rising star Jemma Mi Mi has been making the most of coronavirus lockdown in Brisbane.

High spirits: Firebird's journey of discovery in isolation

Jemma Mi Mi has been on a "journey of self-discovery" - albeit from the confines of her home in Brisbane.

The Queensland Firebird has been making the most of the COVID-19 lockdown, getting in touch with her roots.

"In isolation, I've been learning a lot more about my culture and family history," says Mi Mi, the only indigenous player in the Super Netball competition.

"It's been really cool to do that."

Part of the Wakka Wakka tribe, Mi Mi's father, Jim, grew up on a cattle farm near Gayndah, about four hours drive northwest of Brisbane.

"Dad came around, and he's got a few stories … about the locations up there, the mountains … and we've been going through the family tree," Mi Mi said.

"I also called my nanna who still lives in Gayndah.

"Unfortunately I don't get up there as much as I'd like to.

"Hopefully when it (the coronavirus lockdown) is all over I'll be able to see family again."

Mi Mi says the knowledge will be of benefit in her role with Netball Queensland's Diamond Spirit program, which is aimed at empowering indigenous girls in remote communities through netball.

"Connect with the girls on a deeper level," she said.

Mi Mi works part-time as co-ordinator of the program, which is being run out of Cairns and Bremer state high schools, to give students "confidence, get them out of their comfort zone and learn how to become a team player".

Mi Mi would ideally pay visit both schools - "not this year", she says, for obvious reasons, but is still able to send videos.

"I'm not usually a big public speaker but every time I talk to the kids in the program I feel very relaxed. I know they're happy and I'm so excited as well. It's something I'm really passionate about."

 

Jemma Mi Mi in action for the Firebirds.
Jemma Mi Mi in action for the Firebirds.

 

The Firebirds and the Diamond Spirit program have recently partnered with Deadly Choices, which promotes a healthy lifestyle among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, for an even wider reach across Queensland.

"Especially with indigenous culture, we're very family orientated … with some families not being able to see each other (during the pandemic), it would definitely be really hard on them," Mi Mi said.

"We've been really trying to get a lot of content out for those communities. Give them little activities to do, like exercising."

Many of the girls in the Diamond Spirit program have been special guests at Firebirds games.

Mi Mi, who grew up idolising Cathy Freeman, hopes there will come a day, in the not-too-distant-future, when there is more than one indigenous player in Super Netball.

"I went up to Weipa in far north Queensland with (captain) Gabi (Simpson) in my first year at the Firebirds to deliver some netball clinics," she recalled. "There is a lot of raw talent out there.

"They had no shoes, they were just running around, but they were so happy. We didn't have much equipment either … like a netball and a couple of small netball hoops.

"A lot of them hadn't played netball but they embraced all the little games and drills. They picked it up really quickly.

They were having so much fun.

"But, it's just hard … location, availability of coaches. And it's a really big ask (for a young indigenous girl in remote communities to move to Brisbane to continue her netball pathway) … it'd be so tough to leave."

Born in Newcastle, with stints in Townsville, Canungra and the Gold Coast hinterland while her father was stationed in the army, Mi Mi first took up netball when the family settled in Brisbane.

 

Jemma Mi Mi is determined to become an integral member of the Firebirds outfit.
Jemma Mi Mi is determined to become an integral member of the Firebirds outfit.

 

But the now 24-year-old has had her own hurdles to overcome.
The mid-courter with lightning speed wants to inspire young indigenous girls with her deeds on court as well.

"I definitely felt the pressure, especially last year because I wasn't always on the court all the time," she says.

"I was trying to focus on me and getting out on court but also try and be a role model as well

"I definitely do feel pressure at times but I'm trying to embrace it."

Mi Mi will look to cement a place in the Firebirds starting outfit in 2020 - when the competition finally starts.

The season was to commence earlier this month. A new date for Round 1 has yet to be locked in with the teams still not permitted to train together until at least next month.

"We have been having weekly meetings through our screens, which has been good. Catching up with all the girls and our coaching staff," Mi Mi said.

The players have been given training programs "to keep our bodies moving and get that load into our legs".

"The team that is going to bounce back the quickest is going to really set themselves up well for the season," Mi Mi said.

"I've been pretty lucky. My sisters only live five minutes away, so I'm like. "C'mon, come train with me".

"It's so hard going by yourself.

"With these restrictions easing, I'm so much more eager to get back on court, get the ball in my hands and start training."

 

 

While her bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology at the Queensland University of Technology has been put on hold,  Mi Mi has been busy shooting exercise videos, which can be viewed on the Netball Queensland app, Inspire Sport, or Youtube. There you will also see her dogs make cameo appearances.

"They're very happy I'm home a lot more now," she said.

"Every time I put out my yoga mat they think that's their mat, so they'll go and lie on it."

Mi Mi has also filled in time watching the hit Netflix series The Last Dance, about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls NBA dynasty of the 1990s.

"That been really cool. That's probably what's been sparking my eagerness to get back out on court," she said.


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