The 'orange bubble' fuelling the Giants in Super Netball

Inside the visitors changerooms, deep in the bowels of John Cain Arena, is an orange bubble.

It's where the volume of the pump-up music is only matched by the energy of the players, fun is as important as the game plan and the Giants are authentically themselves.

It's game day and the Giants are in Melbourne to play the Mavericks, the newest team on the Super Netball block. The home team have recorded two victories this season, the Giants just one.

The pre-game atmosphere doesn't reflect the mood you'd expect of a team with a 1-5 record.

It's a bit over an hour until centre pass and mobile phones are placed in a locked case alongside a colourful spread of fruit, lollies, and energy gel sachets.

There's a whirl of aerosols, both deodorant and hair spray, through the air.

Matisse Letherbarrow is getting her ankle strapped, Jodi-Ann Ward is in front of the mirror perfecting her braids while Sam Winders, with eyes shut, sits inside her locker -- still, calm and practising visualisation.

Defender Matilda McDonnell is bouncing around, co-captain Jo Harten has a fierce focus and Maddie Hay, who underwent major hip surgery preseason, is quietly preparing for her first game of 2024.

Coach Julie Fitzgerald, in her 27th campaign at national level, sits with an orange notebook in hands reading over her notes.

The players take their seats in a circle, it's now about 40 minutes until game time.

"Today's a day where we've got to be really, really confident amongst ourselves. We have to go out there and we have to back each other," Fitzgerald says.

"We showed signs in the first half of last week, we are a very, very good team and you have to believe that and today's a very good opportunity to get out there and show it.

"Regardless of what scoreboards might say, each time we've taken the court we've played a little bit better for a little bit longer and today's the day we actually get to bring it all together."

She goes on to remind her team not to be taken out of their game by the opposition and to stay in their own little orange bubble. The group has been growing, today they can show how much.

"Play with heart and desperation, back each other up, chase down every ball but at the same time we play calm, clinical netball," Fitzgerald adds.

"You can win today and you can get out there and play four good quarters."

Applause erupts, the Giants now on their feet form a circle and Harten tells them their challenge is to pass a football, then a tennis ball, to each other behind their backs while counting backwards. Communication is important and so is passing.

Task complete, the Giants' hands meet in the middle and Harten implores her teammates to have fun in the warm up, then in the first quarter and second before coming in at half time to reset before doing it again.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald explains to ESPN the importance of a strong start. The Giants are yet to win a first quarter in 2024.

Her pre-game messaging around self-belief and belief in one another was intentional.

"Confidence is everything with this team. We're a bloody good team but getting that confidence up and that knowledge that they can win is so important," she says.

With warm ups complete and a fitting ceremony to celebrate and recognise First Nations Round, it is finally time for the Giants to put together the four-quarter performance they've been striving for.

Harten opens the scoring almost immediately in a sign of what's to come for the team and its spiritual leader who goes on to sink her 3000th Super Netball point. Hay's return to the midcourt is seamless and obvious early as the visitors win the first quarter for the first time in 2024.

That 19-17 quarter-time buffer lays an early foundation. The Giants are able to do what they haven't all season and build on their momentum. They take a lead and confidence into half time.

The Giants win the third quarter, for the first time this season. Letherbarrow is injected into the power five with immediate affect, Harten moving to goal attack with Sophie Dwyer taking a breather. The margin at the final change is five points.

The last term is indicative of the contest, the Giants respond to every Mavericks run, and run out winners, 66-59.

After greeting a sprinkling of family and friends, the Giants file back into the rooms.

Two big sheets of paper are taped to the wall where players provide some feedback from the game which will be discussed during the week.

The catchy club song is sung with gusto, players acting out the 'longest strides' and 'highest leap' lyrics.

The singing continues with Harten taking control of the playlist while recovery begins.

Hay slips into an ice bath after her first Super Netball game since June 2023.

"Even though I haven't been in the team the losses have been just as heartbreaking to watch from the sidelines, especially with a sense of helplessness, so to get the win today and get the vibes up and know we'll have a good week ahead is so exciting," she says.

In the tub next to her is Harten, cutting a more relaxed figure now the game has been won and done. She explains the importance of fun.

"It's massive and we haven't had the results we've wanted but we've stuck together and I think we deserved the fun element of today," she said.

"We did the hard work on the court but we'd give each other a cheeky wink or a smile which is that fun stuff and I think it got us over the line."

The Giants begin to pack up before heading to the airport with two precious points in tow but the orange bubble will return to the visitors change rooms at John Cain Arena in six days' time for a tough match up with the Melbourne Vixens.

ESPN can't leave the inner sanctum without asking the co-captains: 'what exactly is the orange bubble?'

"We talk about being in our own bubble and creating the energy for each other," Harten explains.

"We do that before the game, when we're doing trivia, playing games and the camaraderie we have is second to none.

"And it's looking inwards an awful lot for the second half of the season to create that stuff."

Jamie-Lee Price says it stems from the culture the club has created.

"Things haven't gone our way this season but we've stuck together and that can be hard to do when you're getting pumped by a few teams but it's that culture that allows us to stay tight and in our orange bubble," she said.

"The bubble is us. It's blocking out the outside noise, focusing on us and within. We've worried about what we need to, we want to have fun and enjoy ourselves because that's when we're at our best."

And at their best the Giants were on Sunday.