I wrote this post, whilst watching the Netball World Cup semi-final match between England and South Africa and being reminded of what I already know – that netball isn’t for the faint-hearted. The contest and the tussle are part of the physical nature of the game and consequently the thrill of it. In the England/South Africa match I witnessed England’s Guthrie knocked into a heap on the floor (only to get back up and carry on, of course!) and South Africa’s van de Merwe literally belly flop along the edge of the court in an attempt to keep the ball in, and successfully maintain possession for the team!
As the home World Cup in Liverpool saw Netball coverage at an all time high, it’s been encouraging to see the profile of women’s sport on the up in all areas – women’s football being another recent example!
Of course participation in the sport on the ground level has always been considerable, even if this has now soared to new heights, with the Roses’ success in the Commonwealth games and numerous back-to-netball and even walking netball programmes.
Even before the recent surge in coverage, the sport has been played by significantly higher numbers than many sports with more comprehensive TV coverage, but has never been rewarded with investment that the numbers deserved.
I don’t consider myself to be jumping on any feminist bandwagon in saying there is no denying the lack of investment in the past is directly linked to gender, I am just stating the sad truth. And it is sad, as well as being positive and brilliant the netball is starting to receive the attention it deserves. It’s sad that generations of women grew up without feeling validation for the sport they loved and had sometimes found out they were good at by complete accident! Sad that it was difficult to catch a glimpse of role-models in the media or see high-quality televised play to aspire to! Sad that some of us weren’t even aware there was a national squad when we first began our netball journeys.
Things are looking phenomenal for the sport. The Roses’ success and the support from all over the country – thousands flocking to Liverpool – are testament to the power of the game, the strength and resilience of women, the longevity of friendships, the dedication to teamwork and the emotional intensity seen in celebration.
In fact, I have to mention my stand-out moment from the World; New Zealand Goal Defence – Casey Kapua being interviewed after the match, with her 3-year-old in arms. Her daughter was constantly licking the sweat from her mum’s shoulder – obviously liking the saltiness. It affirms the versatility, beauty and toughness of a woman’s body and reminds me of a few years back when my husband used to bring my daughter to away matches (sometimes over 100 miles away), so that I could feed her in the changing room, before taking to the court and again after the match!
When it comes to netball, I’m going to enjoy watching the momentum and notability it’s getting. But let’s keep pushing for more! Looking at statistics – The IOC requires that a sport is played over 3 continents and at least 40 countries for consideration for inclusion in the Olympics. And netball? Played by more than 20 million people in more than 70 countries an over 5 continents. It is in no way unreasonable to ask why it hasn’t yet been given Olympic status; surely this is the next logical and overdue step?
I dare anyone who watches the sport not to agree with me and anyone who hasn’t, to take a look at a match featuring the likes of England, Australia, New Zealand , Jamaica… and remain unmoved.
In a film-making project, I quickly decided that I wanted to make a piece about the personal benefits of playing the sport, along with honing in on the physicality of the game and the many injuries that can accompany it. So here is my film about my beloved sport of 30 years.
No Soft Balls