Firebirds coach says she 'misread community expectations' by sidelining Jemma Mi Mi during Super Netball's Indigenous Round

Firebirds coach says she ‘misread community expectations’ by sidelining Jemma Mi Mi during Super Netball’s Indigenous Round

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Last week was Suncorp Super Netball‘s Indigenous Round, but the league’s only Indigenous player, Jemma Mi Mi, did not get given any game time.

The decision to leave Mi Mi on the bench was made by her club, The Queensland Firebirds on Sunday, despite Super Netball specifically using her to promote the Indigenous Round in the media in the lead up.

Fans and commentators alike expressed their disappointment around not having Mi Mi play during the Indigenous Round, especially when she has taken to the court in several other games this season.

Firebirds head coach Roselee Jencke issued a statement on Monday night, clarifying her decision to bench Mi Mi.

Jencke wrote about the team needing to find “the right combinations” and “unlocking the team’s potential”. She also said the club misread the “community expectations” surrounding the Indigenous Round.

“The decision not to put Jemma on the court was the right one from a game strategy perspective, however we misread community expectations and the significance of Jemma’s court time in the game in this round.”

The statement from Jencke did not specifically say that Mi Mi should have played the game, and no apology was offered to Mi Mi, or those in the netball community.

Jencke also wrote that Mi Mi helps the club develop their cultural awareness, and that as the only Indigenous player in Super Netball, she feels “huge responsibility”.

“Jemma has and continues to develop our cultural awareness and has shared with her team mates her own cultural journey as a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman. We are very proud that Jemma is a Firebird.”

It remains unclear why Jencke and the Firebirds thought leaving Mi Mi on the sidelines would be a satisfactory way to meet ‘community expectations’ during Indigenous Round.

It’s also alarming that developing the club’s cultural awareness would fall squarely on the shoulders of the game’s only Indigenous player.

Sharon Finnan-White, the second Indigenous player to play for the Diamonds, said Mi Mi “should have been afforded more respect and consideration.”

“This was a big moment for Jemma Mi Mi to play in front of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who was watching that game,” she wrote on Twitter.

Earlier last week, before the Indigenous Round kicked off, Mi Mi gave an interview with the ABC, where she talked about feeling the pressure as the only Indigenous player in the competition. She talked about how she’s learnt to take on the responsibility, and how she chooses to embrace her position as a role model for young Indigenous girls.

“I’ve learnt to own that responsibility and take on that pressure. I felt it a lot last year,” she said.

It seems that Super Netball and the Firebirds have asked a lot of Jemma Mi Mi. Not only last week, when they used her to promote the Indigenous Round, but every week that she has been the only Indigenous player in the game.

Giving Mi Mi game time on Sunday would have been the very least they could have done to return the favour. What does it say about the state of the game that it didn’t happen?

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