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Perfect game far from mystical for forthright Mes

Still dealing with the sinking of the Silver Ferns, shooter Bailey Mes has checked out of social media, and returned to the basics with the Mystics, she tells Suzanne McFadden.

Bailey Mes doesn’t let the numbers, good or bad, define her. The Silver Ferns shooter was oblivious to the fact she’d shot the perfect game for the Northern Mystics a week ago against defending ANZ Premiership champions, the Southern Steel.

It wasn’t until she was interviewed on the side-line afterwards, and former Australian Diamond-turned-commentator Natalie Avellino held up a piece of paper with her shooting stats, that it sank in: 31 from 31. The elusive 100 percent shooting accuracy.

“I don’t focus on that,” Mes says matter-of-factly. “In terms of the court play and our game, it doesn’t always make the difference.” After all, the Mystics still lost by four goals, making it a one-win three-loss record so far this season. “There’s still stuff to work on, but it’s a good step forward.”

Mes is intent on taking those incremental steps forward. The experienced international shooter, who turned 29 yesterday, is still “digesting” exactly what happened at the Commonwealth Games not quite two months ago when the Silver Ferns failed to capture a medal.

She wants to take what went wrong in her own game and make it right. She’s checked out of her social media accounts, ignoring the keyboard critics. “People can be so horrible, I don’t see any benefit in seeing it,” she says.

The solution to her troubles, she believes, lies with returning to the basics, while at the same time as doing all she can to help the Mystics succeed.

“There were lots of learnings, if I had to summarise it,” Mes says of the dire Gold Coast campaign. “It was intense. I’m still reflecting on a lot of it.

“There have been a lot of things in my career that haven’t been straightforward and I’ve learned how to deal with them. It comes down to me focusing on myself.”

Mes’ elite netball career - including six seasons in the Silver Ferns - has had its extreme highs and lows. In recent years, she’s been a regular in the starting line-up in the Ferns shooting circle with Maria Folau. She played a vital supporting role to Te Paea Selby-Rickit in the Ferns' victory over Australia in the Quad Series final last September. But, on the Gold Coast, Mes came into most of the Ferns’ games off the bench, and struggled to make an impact.

“My performances at the Comms were nowhere near what I was capable of. Just sticking to those things you know you can always go back to, I struggled with that a bit,” she says. “That was really challenging and frustrating.”

But, back in the fold of her Mystics “family”, Mes feels like she’s steadily making progress. “Because it was such a tough time for everyone, it’s taken a little adjustment,” she says.

Four games into the ANZ Premiership, and she’s averaging 75 percent shooting accuracy. Her attempts at goal in the season opener just scraped over 50 percent. So her no-miss performance against the Steel was a much-needed filip.

“I wasn’t really conscious of it during the game. I was more happy with the volume I was shooting,” she says. “Thirty-one doesn’t sound that high for a goal shoot, but the volume of my shots is something I’ve been working on.

“Every shooter wants to shoot a hundred [percent] every week. But that was a small step for me in terms of what I can do for my team. I’m just going back to doing my own job, which has been really good.”

So what is the perfect game for Mes? “If you look at the role of a goal shooter, it’s about volume, accuracy and not throwing the ball away. You could say you’ve shot 100 percent, but there’s more you’ve thrown away. It’s also about how you can contribute in the tricky times, when there’s only one goal in it,” she says.

She’s having to adjust to playing with new shooters in the Mystics line-up in 2018. With Folau now living in Sydney and play spasmodically for the franchise, Mes is building new partnerships with relatively-green shooters Jamie Hume and Tera-Maria Amani.

“Maria has been coming back and fitting in nicely. She’s still an absolute weapon on court, and we have a really good partnership; I love playing with Maria,” she says. (The Mystics couldn’t confirm whether Folau would play in tonight’s game against the Tactix in Christchurch).

“But Jamie is awesome, so quick around the court, and Tera too. We’ve all shown at different times what we can offer, and when we click it’s amazing. We just need to keep doing that."

Mes is renowned for her commitment to constantly trying to be better - analysing her game to change her playing patterns and throwing herself into her fitness and training. But, she says, her dedication is almost to a fault.

“That’s another thing that’s come out in the last little while. That stuff only goes so far," she says. "You can be the fittest and the strongest, and having that aspect to your game is great. But there are a lot of different factors that you need to be on top of. And it’s hard.

“Being back in a really supportive environment, going back to basics and just trying to enjoy training, has been really good for me.”

She’s realised the importance of finding a balance, and a life outside of netball. She’s trying to strike that through study - focusing on finishing her degree in photography this year.

“Out of school, I did sport and then science, so it’s something I picked up five years ago. I’m doing it quite slowly, but I love it,” says Mes, who enjoys photographing people. “Studying itself is a good distraction. But photography is the polar opposite of sport, and netball.

“I’m excited about finishing, because I’ve been studying ever since I left school 10 years ago, first sport and then science. I’d love to have a career in photography, I just don’t know how it will look yet.”

Her other goal this year is to take the Mystics as far as she can in the ANZ Premiership, aiming above their third in last year’s inaugural season. There is some irony in that - Mes spent her first three seasons at top-level netball collecting splinters on the Mystics' bench. She doesn't hold grudges, it seems. 

“I genuinely believe we are capable of amazing netball. The game the other night was great, but it’s so heart-breaking that there were patches where we let ourselves down. We’ve made massive strides. I just want to do everything I can to get us there.”

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