Aiken set for Jamaican shooting showdown
Last month they were combining forces to help power Jamaica to a bronze medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Today they will be enemies, at opposite ends of the court, trying to give their respective Super Netball sides the edge at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
It's the showdown between the two most formidable goal shooters in the game - the 198cm Jhaniele Fowler of the West Coast Fever and 196cm Romelda Aiken of the Queensland Firebirds.
"We're really good friends,” Aiken said. "We always check up on each other, see how each other's going. I'll catch up with her before the game.
"But, let's be honest, when we get on court we are playing for our own club teams ... when it's on court we're down to business.”
The Fever have made a stunning start to the new season, leading the competition with a 4-0 win-loss record. They only won two games in 2017.
Fowler has been dominant up front - 220 goals from 238 attempts. Next best is Magpie Caitlin Thwaites with 166.
"It's going to be a huge game,” Aiken said. "I'm really looking forward to the challenge. They are very much in form at the moment.”
Fowler arrived in Perth after leading the Southern Steel to New Zealand's domestic ANZ Championship title.
Returning Firebirds great Laura Geitz will be assigned the task of minding the 28-year-old but it will be a team defence that tries to curb the Fever giant.
"All of us are ready,” Aiken said. "It's going to be hard. Whenever our defenders get a turnover we just have to make sure we score. We can't afford to give her (Fowler) a second attempt.”
Long-time scoring queen Aiken has dropped in 156 goals this season, to be ranked third. The record-holder for the most goals in Australian domestic netball admits she doesn't want to be left in the shade by her countrywoman.
Aiken won three trans-Tasman ANZ Championship MVP awards with the Firebirds (2008, 2009, 2015), likewise Fowler with the Steel (2013, '15, '16), before the break up of the competition.
"You're always striving to be the best, to be No.1,” Aiken said. "But for me, it's about my own performance. I'm trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself.
"It's about being accountable when you're out there and doing the job for yourself and your teammates.”
Aiken, 29, has been determined to become a more mobile goal shooter, linking with goal attack Gretel Tippett.
"I've worked really hard in the off-season to make sure I'm in the best shape possible,” she said.
"And I'm really liking that I'm able to add a bit more variety to my game, not just playing as the posting shooter.”
Aiken said she didn't hold any grudges against Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander who had questioned whether international players should be allowed to appear in the Super Netball after Australia bowed to England in the Commonwealth Games gold-medal game.
"I think it (her comments) were made in the heat of the moment,” she said.
"In Jamaica we don't have the high-performance qualities we have here. Giving players the opportunities to come out here and play amongst the best ... it's great for us and it's great for netball.
"We're just so grateful.”
Today: Firebirds v Fever, 3pm