Kyra Jones reflects on Superleague retirement and Celtic Dragons' exciting future
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 07/11/19 1:11pm
After stepping away from Celtic Dragons for the last time following the British Fast5 All-Stars Championships, Kyra Jones talks to Sky Sports about her reasons for calling time on her domestic career and about Celtic Dragons' potential going forwards.
In early April it was announced that Kyra Jones would be hanging up her Dragons dress at the end of the season.
The volume of messages in response to her announcement on social media, and the words that they contained, highlighted how respected the Welsh international is.
Jones arrived from Australia as an 'import player' and qualified for Wales ahead of the 2011/12 season. On top of leading Wales' charge, she has spent almost all of her Vitality Netball Superleague career with Dragons.
The exception to that was a year spent with Team Bath in 2015 and when it came to the year just gone, she was particularly focused on one goal.
"A few seasons ago we made the Grand Final  and we were really working towards something and unfortunately we just took a bit of a dip in the last couple of years," the mid-courter said exclusively to Sky Sports.
"My challenge this year, and the reason that I re-signed, was because I wanted to put Dragons back on the map and I felt like we did that [in 2019].
"I feel like now that has happened, and that I've done what I needed and what I set out to do, it's up to them to continue pushing that forwards."
WHAT A DEBUT!! 💚 @celtic_dragons @Fast5allstars This team is everything! So proud to be part of such a motivated bunch, that is dedicated to making an impact on and off court. Miss you already, legend @kyrajones09 😞 You have arrived! @Luce_herdman 👸🏽 WE WILL GO AGAIN!!!💥🚀🐲 pic.twitter.com/9RP4OgQToe— Dee Bolakoro (@BolakoroDee) October 13, 2019
The mid-court player was an integral part of Dragons' recent Fast5 campaign - a final run out with her club team-mates. It was an experience that she loved and one that continued to put Dragons on the map.
"I don't think that it was just us that was buzzing, I think that everybody enjoyed the day," Jones said.
"I think that it is one of those competitions without real pressure on you. With Superleague you've got to get results and you're aiming for your goals all the time. There are expectations in the Superleague season.
"With Fast5 the game is a little bit different and you can just have some fun. Everyone was buzzing off it.
"I can only imagine now that the feeling that we had there, and having shown what Dragons are all about, will move forwards into their pre-season training."
Dragons' squad for the 2020 Superleague season includes several returning players like shooter Chelsea Lewis and Dee Bolakoro and some fresh faces including Rebekah Robinson and Latanya Wilson.
For Jones the decision to halt time on her own Superleague career arose due to the need to get a little more balance in her life and gain time back away from the netball court.
"For me, when people were talking contracts earlier on in the year I wasn't ready to be talking about contracts," she reflected.
"Originally when I thought about retiring, I thought that it would be when all of the young guns were surpassing me, however I feel I'm as fit as I was a few years ago.
"But, I felt myself getting to a stage where I was questioning if I really wanted to go to training. With Superleague, it [the schedule and commitment] is very intense."
Despite the prospect of gaining some time back, Jones still shares the emotions that so many retiring sportspeople feel when it comes to the prospect of not having such close contact with their former team-mates.
"I'll miss the banter, it's the connection," she shared.
"During the season, I'd often think that I'd see the girls more than I'd see my husband. You do develop some good friendships there and that's going to be the hardest thing. I'll miss the 'changing room banter'!"
Alongside her time with Wales' international side, one other element that may well generate some of that missing banter is linking back in with a something that she undertook earlier in the year.
At the end of May, the netballer took part in a charity boxing night at a gym where she was already working with one of the owners on training to help her lower back issue.
She ended up getting into the boxing ring, and beating, a female Welsh rugby player and raised over £300 for a children's hospice in Wales.
The fact that Jones prevailed over a challenging opponent tells you about her tenacity and fitness and her choice of walk-on music 'Men At Work - Down Under' shows her fun side too.
Is Fast5 a potential Olympic route?
Tamsin Greenway reflects on the British Fast5 All-Star Championships and asks if Fast5 is a potential route into the Olympics for netball?
"I was quite surprised that I did come away with the win," Jones admitted.
"It was three rounds and she did tire a bit. She came out all-guns blazing in the first and I just had to bide my time… in the second and third rounds I let loose.
"When I was getting ready to go out I was thinking, 'What am I doing?'
"But I really, really enjoyed the training part of it. I'm going to look now and see where I can go just to do the training side of it."
Retirement for any sportsperson, whatever the sport, is a big decision and what is clear from speaking to Jones is that she's leaving Dragons in a good place and that she's in one too.
Her commitment to netball - to Dragons and Wales - has been outstanding and now it's time for her to turn the dial down just slightly as she takes a breath and reflects on 10 years at the top of the game.
Sky Sports is your home of netball and live action returns with the Vitality Roses' three-Test tour to South Africa. The first Test from the Velodrome in Cape Town will be shown live on November 29 at 5.00pm.