This netball team doesn’t have a formal name yet, but that’s not important.
The team of young ACT netballers with a disability doesn’t need a team name to define what they’re capable of. The fact they’re participating is the most important part.
What the team does have are players who will proudly wear the ACT colours. They’re trailblazers. Because when they travel to Brisbane for the One Netball Marie Little Shield at the Brisbane Netball Centre from 12 to 14 October, they’ll be competing against players of all abilities.
Named after disabilities pioneer Marie Little OAM, the competition continues to grow as Netball Australia and the state organisations focus on delivering accessible netball programs from the grassroots to representative levels.
Netball ACT’s development coordinator Lachie O’Sullivan told Region Media that after they put the word out, a team formed after two come-and-try days. The seven players were enough for a team, but not for a reserves bench, so they enlisted the support of players from across the border in NSW.
He said the selection process was fairly unofficial, but it was so exciting to have the players come in and receive their uniforms.
“Their faces just lit up and you could see that in the parents as well,” Lachie said.
“Some of these girls have never been out of the ACT before, so they’re absolutely pumped to be going away in a team environment. To get on a plane and travel to a city they’ve never been to will be amazing for them.”
Netball ACT marketing and communications manager Hayley Lia said the key was to get netballers with a disability on the court and provide a pathway to further competition.
“We want to create a connection between what other clubs like Tuggeranong are doing in the inclusion space, so it’s important for us to have a pathway where there is more involvement and interest for people with a disability who want to play netball.”
With a grant from The Confident Girls Foundation, Netball ACT has been able to fully fund the athlete’s involvement in the competition, along with partial support for parents and carers attending the event.
The official uniform supplier to Netball ACT, Struddy’s, has also partnered with the program to fund all the players’ dresses and subsidise the full representative kit for the competition.
Coach Dayna Waterworth said the 11 young women on the team will be winners from the moment they step on the court in Brisbane.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for them to open their eyes to what competitive netball is,” Dayna said.
“This is a national tournament, it’s proper netball, it’s definitely going to be a big experience and one that will be really rewarding for all of us involved.”
The team has been training once a week and is starting to gel as a unit.
“Even just doing the chant at the start of the game, as well as taking the court for the first time, is going to be a massive thing. Just being there and giving it a red-hot go is the most important part,” Dayna said.
Lachie said he hopes the team will provide a competitive program for netballers of all abilities in the ACT.
“While Tuggeranong has started something in this space, we’d love to be able to work with them to grow it into a north and south side of Canberra thing where more regular games are played. We’re also looking to work more with schools like Black Mountain in O’Connor and the Woden School, which cater to students with a disability.”
Netball ACT acting general manager Nicole Bowles said they are excited and proud to be able to provide this opportunity to the athletes, coaches and umpires.
“Netball ACT is committed to providing opportunities for all members of our community to play netball and represent the ACT in a national competition. Anyone, regardless of background or ability, is welcome in netball.
“The ACT Marie Little Shield team is only the starting point for Netball ACT with regards to broader community participation programs and engagement within the Canberra region.”
The team presentation will be held at The Hellenic Club in Civic on Sunday, 29 September.
The team is: Latisha Burke, Olivia Runting, Charlotte Bailey, Lucy Barraclough, Ursula Steele, Jemima Heberden, Madeline Elphick, Eadynn Haak, Lucy Hamilton, Rebecca Parker, Rowena McBride. Coach: Dayna Waterworth. Assistant coach: Marie Seuala-Pomale. Team manager: Marilyn White.