Eboni to return home
ENGLISH Roses star defender Eboni Usoro-Brown is returning home to the UK after a stellar season-long stint with the Queensland Firebirds.
Her short but impactful time with the Firebirds culminated in playing all 14 rounds of the Suncorp Super Netball season, with 42 deflections, 22 rebounds and nine intercepts.
The 34-year-old former Roses captain (111 Test Caps) and Commonwealth Games gold medallist will once again represent Team England when they hit the court at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, making it her fourth Games appearance.
Usoro-Brown was always planning to stay in Brisbane for just the one Suncorp Super Netball season, with the Firebirds fortunate to secure her services at all.
“When I initially got the offer to join the ‘Birdies’ from Megs (Megan Anderson) I politely said, ‘no thank you’,” Usoro-Brown said.
“It was my husband who showed me what the opportunity could look like not only for me, but our family.”
The first to admit “it takes a village”, Usoro-Brown has shared her time in Brisbane with her daughter Savannah and mother Pauline Beckford.
“Two years ago I was pregnant with Savannah, I never expected to once again find myself relocating to Australia for a netball season” Usoro-Brown said.
“Despite only just missing out on finals, it has been a wonderful experience, to play against the world’s best week in and week out and put in consistent and impactful performances. I built a strong partnership with Ruby (Bakewell-Doran) and I was able to share some of my on-court experience with her. I’m elated that she has been selected into the Diamonds squad and I too am delighted to have again been selected to represent England this summer, which has just topped it off.”
This season has shown Usoro-Brown she’s still got what it takes to match it with netball’s elite.
“There’s definitely a new generation of netball athlete coming through,” she said.
“The first time I played in Australia was with Fever and the Thunderbirds seven years ago, and the competition and standard has developed 10-fold. The games are faster, there’s more intensity. The biggest thing that I’ve learned during my time here is just how much the game has transformed and it’s exciting to see how it continues to grow.”
As for her own netball career following this year’s Commonwealth Games, Usoro-Brown, a qualified lawyer, is yet to decide what that looks like.
“I consider myself to be in a fortunate position as I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do in the sport, so moving forward, any next step will have to be right for my family” she said.
“I’ll get home and have that conversation with my husband who himself is waiting to find out where his Royal Air Force career will see the family stationed.”
Regardless of what the future brings, Queensland will always hold a special place in Usoro-Brown’s heart.
“It’s the friendships I’ve made with the team,” she said.
“The biggest highlight was going to Perth for Indigenous round and standing alongside Nelle (Donnell Wallam) and Jem (Jemma Mi Mi), and getting that win back where I started my career in Australia. It was an epic result, but there have been many special moments along the way. There’s a special camaraderie within the ‘Birdies’ team and it’s been a true privilege to have played for them.”
The purple family also played an enormous role off the court.
“A massive thank you to all of the purple family, near and far, for the support shown not just to me, but to my mum and daughter who were particularly embraced at games,” Usoro-Brown said.
“Thank you for welcoming us with open arms. We’ve really had wonderful adventures on and away from the court and Savannah is now a firm lover of kangaroos and koalas.”
Outgoing Firebirds coach Megan Anderson described Usoro-Brown as a “true professional”.
“From the moment she signed with us she committed wholeheartedly,” Anderson said.
“She joined our team building and culture sessions from the UK, despite it being 3am. This opinion didn’t change once she arrived. She was often first in the gym for prep and last to leave. She worked tirelessly to get herself up to speed with the Firebirds’ style of play and the opposition she would be coming up against. It’s a credit to her that she so quickly formed good partnerships with both Ruby and Kim Jenner.”
Anderson went on to say the Firebirds team would be forever grateful for the legacy Usoro-Brown’s leaving behind, referring to her leadership, commitment, competitiveness and enthusiasm.
“She’s one-of-a-kind and will have an impact on her teammates’ netball journeys long past her tenure here.”