When I was in primary school I was desperate to start my netball career. I was certain that “career” was the right word as I planned to play netball for Australia and therefore become rich and famous. Behold my nesting dolls of delusion.
Joining my first team, Newstead Junior 2, was the start of a very steep netball learning curve. It wasn’t steep enough to lead to international netball, but I learnt a few things, which I’d like to share.
When I was in high school I played a couple of seasons of mid-week indoor netball. This has all the same rules as outdoor netball except you’re allowed to kill people. It was an incredibly rough competition. Luckily the courts were surrounded with nets and there was no bitumen so breaking a pelvis didn’t hurt.
A team from a local low-security prison played in the competition. One week one of their players threatened to kill Julia. This situation was clearly unacceptable. So at half-time our captain swapped Julia out. And swapped me in. I was baffled by this decision because I tend to shit people at the best of times.
I kept my distance and my opponent merely threatened to punch me in the face. I didn’t play my best netball ever, but it wasn’t the point. I had discovered something important about myself; sometimes people didn’t want to kill me.
The next week the woman involved apologised, explaining that she hadn’t been taking her medication. No worries I said. No worries at all.
As a general rule, the prison team were much less frightening than the young mums team who brought their toddlers to the game, smoked next to the court and absolutely hated our university-destined guts, to which I can only say fair enough as I imagine we were pretty annoying.
For me, netball and losing are intertwined. I have never been a member of a winning netball team. The score for my first netball game was 17 – 1 against, and from there I went only to lose around 95% of my games. Naturally, I’ve never played in a final.
With losing so inevitable I set other goals. I might feel like we’d had a great game because we achieved half the score of the winning team, or because we won one quarter, or because no-one threatened to kill me (see Indoor Netball).
Men playing netball may seem shocking but once you accept that not everyone will be classically trained (and you might witness such horrors as a Goal Attack taking a free pass outside the goal circle) mixed netball can be quite fun. I’ve filled in for a few mixed netball teams in Melbourne and have mainly enjoyed it without tsking.
One of the proudest achievements of my life was winning the Most Improved trophy in my first netball season. I did deserve that trophy. I started the season playing half games as a Wing Attack. I ended the year playing the full game and getting the occasional quarter as Centre. The lesson is, make sure you start badly to maximise apparent improvement.
These are a pair of black underpants worn over your normal underpants so that no-one sees your underpants when your incredibly short skirt flies into the air. Here’s a thought – shorts.
Orange segments are the perfect food for half-time. All athletes like to be sticky and have bits in their teeth.
Ra Ra Ra
When I played classical netball, at the end of each game both teams were required to stand in a circle with our arms around each other and chant:
Three cheers for “Winning Team”, Ra, Ra, Ra.
Three cheers for “Losing Team”, Ra, Ra, Ra.
Three cheers for the umpires, Ra, Ra, Ra.
I presume we were made to do this to prepare for the for the indignities of giving birth.
Socks were very controversial on the ’90s netball court. Ankle sports socks were the fashion but were officially banned due to reasons. Everyone still wore them (except me because my mum wouldn’t let me) and usually nothing was said. However, exceptions did occur. For example, the time when my C Grade Wesley Hill team unexpectedly and uniquely won a game. The opposition team (I say that, but I mean their mums) put in an official complaint about our socks and we didn’t get the match points.
I like to hope that these dark ’90s days of socking shaming teenage girls have passed, but I thought that about Pauline Hanson.
I am always shocked by sports players who openly criticise and argue with the umpires. This was not allowed, and basically didn’t happen, when I played netball. I don’t know how the netball league achieved such discipline but I think it involved making examples of people and burning.
I only personally umpired one game of netball. I had aced the written netball umpiring test and felt quietly confident. Then I discovered that real life is more confusing than the book. No-one actually abused me while the game was going on, but after there were a number of official complaints, including from the team who won.