Louise Bilston steps back from netball after 36 years

Tim Gavel 26 February 2021 35
Coach Louise, with her daughter's netball team at Maddies

Louise (back, left) coaching her daughter’s netball team at Maddies Netball Club. Louise’s daughter, Grace, is Wing Attack (front row). Photo: Supplied.

Louise Bilston’s involvement in the sport of netball is extensive, from player to coach, administrator, board member and president.

When Netball ACT faced the possibility of insolvency a few years ago, Bilston drew on her long career in project and business management to help save the sport in Canberra from going into administration.

The impact of COVID-19 on Canberra sporting organisations and those who volunteer their time to ensure they stay afloat can’t be underestimated.

While Netball ACT emerged from the pandemic virtually unscathed, the same can’t be said for its president.

“We have had a stressful few years. We went close to insolvency and the board had to work operationally for many years. We stayed solvent and put the organisation in a solid financial position with stronger pathways and more opportunities for members,” she said.

“Then along came COVID. We went back into crisis management and got through, but it has taken its toll. I don’t have the energy required any more, and it’s best for me to make room for someone with time and energy to devote fully to the role.”

But she’s given more than time and energy, despite other competing demands on her life.

Following her aunt and sister’s deaths to cancer, she is now caring for her father who is battling melanoma.

Louise’s son was married last year, her two daughters are also getting married, and her first grandchild is on the way.

In the end, something had to give, and of course, family comes first. That’s not to say that netball hasn’t been an important part of her life; in fact, at times, it had become all-consuming.

So how did netball play such a dominant role? This is particularly unusual as her passion growing up was track and field.

“I started playing in primary school,” says Louise, “I started coaching junior teams while I was playing in high school and continued playing while I was at university.”

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After 12 years of playing and coaching, she pursued experiences in netball management and committee involvement as a volunteer.

“Basically, my involvement in management and netball committees started when my kids were in primary school, and it went from there. I worked in project management and business management in the construction industry in Canberra, and I was able to apply those skills to helping run sporting clubs.”

Louise wrote business plans and risk management plans and put structures in place to ensure the stability and growth of clubs such as Maddie’s and the Tuggeranong Netball Association (TNA).

During her time as the president of Tuggeranong, the club launched a fundraising carnival to support Bosom Buddies and Lifeline to ensure a tangible connection to the wider community.

Louise is a big supporter of the not-for-profit sector. The connection with Bosom Buddies and Lifeline proved to be an incredibly successful venture, lifting the profile of the charities and raising funds at the same time.

Louise, Benita Bittner (CEO), and Cassandra Stewart (BNA president)

Louise Bilston, Benita Bittner (CEO), and Cassandra Stewart (BNA president) at a Belconnen Netball Association function supporting ‘Give for a Goal’ fundraiser for Netball Australia Confident Girls Foundation. Photo: Supplied.

In 2012 at the annual charity fundraiser, Louise met her partner of nearly nine years, Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.

“He put a team in the Tuggeranong Netball Association marathon game, and we hit it off from there.”

From president of TNA, Louise took the next step to the Netball ACT board before becoming president.

The most challenging time was in 2017-2018 when Netball ACT faced a financial crisis. For many, it was hard to believe as the association boasted over 10,000 registered players.

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Along with then CEO Benita Bittner, Louise set about putting new systems in place, including a financial risk management committee. It may sound dry, but it proved to be vital in keeping the sport solvent.

Now post-COVID and with Netball ACT working with Netball Australia on a State of the Game review, as well as plenty of work on governance, Louise says the time is right to move on.

Giants netball players with Louise and Cathy Toze, NACT

Taking Giants netballers out into the district. Kim Green (Giants player), Louise, Cathy Toze (NACT director), and Sarena Guthrie (Giants player). Photo: Supplied.

“Netball has been a large part of my life for such a long time, but now is the right time for me to make room for someone else to devote fully to the role as NACT moves into the next stage of its history,” says Louise.

“I am looking forward to having more time with my family and perhaps coaching NetSetGo again one day for my granddaughter in the future.”

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As to the future of the sport in Canberra, Louise thinks there’s no reason why Canberra can’t have a Super League team.

“NACT recently established the Capital Darters after securing a licence in NNSW Premier League, which is the pathway for our member’s to the ANL. The next opportunity for our members should be Super League. However, there’s a lot to do before that happens,” says Louise.

“But I believe we should have a team in the Netball Super League. We have teams in the NRL, W League, WNBL and Super Rugby, why not the Netball Super League?”

Louise may be stepping away from her role as the leader of netball in Canberra, but it’s obvious her passion for the sport remains. And she leaves the sport confident that it is in a strong position and will continue to be a part of so many people’s sporting life for years to come.

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35 Responses to Louise Bilston steps back from netball after 36 years
Bernadette Bryant Bernadette Bryant 10:24 pm 02 Mar 21

Well done Louise.

Caroline Le Couteur Caroline Le Couteur 10:48 pm 01 Mar 21

Good work

Bernadette Flannery Bernadette Flannery 10:45 am 01 Mar 21

Top work for such a stretch. Terrific.

Brendhan Egan Brendhan Egan 6:52 am 01 Mar 21

Congratulations Louise Bilston . Best wishes for the future

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:47 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thanks Brendhan! NACT couldn’t ask for a better Chair for their FARM committee. You have big shoes to fill following Scott Meyers, but have settled in quickly and professionally. Thank you, you’ll nail it!

Ali White Ali White 6:02 am 01 Mar 21

Great work Lou! ❤️

Nicky Leatherby Nicky Leatherby 4:13 am 01 Mar 21

Congrats Louise 💙💚

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:45 pm 01 Mar 21

    I remember roping you in to ‘help out for just one season’....you became a much loved and valuable member of the netball community. The best! x

    Nicky Leatherby Nicky Leatherby 7:46 pm 01 Mar 21

    Louise Bilston Thanks I’m glad you did as I loved it

Bena Beyond Bena Beyond 3:34 am 01 Mar 21

Great effort Louise Bilston !

Bernadette Backer Bernadette Backer 1:12 am 01 Mar 21

Well done Louise Bilston. You give your all in everything you do and I personally thank you for this and what you've brought to my family.

CONGRATULATIONS on EVERYTHING and now go enjoy your 'you' time. I know you will be the best grandma ever 💖

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:44 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thank you for your lovely comments and in going friendship Bernadette.

    Maddies and TNA were so lucky to have the Backers part of our netball family. I am even luckier to have friendships with all of you all these years later. X

Alex Suter Redmond Alex Suter Redmond 11:31 pm 28 Feb 21

"If you need? If you need Lou?" Louise Bilston Hat-tip to you on an amazing journey and impact on netball in our town.

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:41 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thanks Alex! Maddies and TNA were lucky to have the Redmond’s as part of our netball families. Still friends all these years later. Thank you

Judith Lawler Judith Lawler 10:41 pm 28 Feb 21

Well Done Louise!

Laura Stuart Laura Stuart 10:32 pm 28 Feb 21

Louiseis a legend. Such a generous spirit!

Denise Dixon Denise Dixon 9:19 pm 28 Feb 21

Congratulations Lou, you've been a truly amazing asset to NACT and they will miss you greatly... Well done Super Coach from your Super Assistant Coach😆😆😆❤❤❤ Beth Price

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:40 pm 01 Mar 21

    How lucky were we that you and Beth came to TNA, Mustangs and Maddies all those years ago. Beth was a star player and you were the ultimate supporter/volunteer. One of the best, and certainly funniest, assistant coach and manager I ever worked with. Thanks for all you did and still do supporting our sport xx

Sarah Young Sarah Young 8:50 pm 28 Feb 21

Well done Louise Bilston, you’ve done yourself proud xx

Benita Bittner Benita Bittner 8:50 pm 28 Feb 21

Great article! Wonderful person! Well done Louise enjoy the next journey ❤️

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:36 pm 01 Mar 21

    Couldn’t have done it without you. Hardest working colleague I have ever worked with. NACT was so very privileged to have you as our GM. Your ideas, energy, drive and commitment were second to none! We achieved so much together and I’ve made a lifelong friend. Thankyou

    Benita Bittner Benita Bittner 9:08 am 02 Mar 21

    Louise had to keep up with you lol.

Bianca Sands Bianca Sands 8:46 pm 28 Feb 21

Congratulations Louise Bilston! What a wonderful contribution you have given to our game 💙💚

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:34 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thanks Bianca. You too! I fondly remember when you first joined Maddies and TNA and the energy and commitment you bought with you and shared freely. Thank you

Juliette Major Juliette Major 8:38 pm 28 Feb 21

That’ll do Lou... that’ll do. Bravo! Ready, set... rest!

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:32 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thanks Juliette. Being part of community and contributing is just what we do!

Caryle York Caryle York 8:32 pm 28 Feb 21

You are a superstar Louise.x

Manz Luxford Manz Luxford 8:25 pm 28 Feb 21

Thank you Louise- love your work my friend xxx

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:31 pm 01 Mar 21

    You too! It’s great having the extra connection that you were part of CNA with my sister Michelle.

Natalee George Natalee George 8:21 pm 28 Feb 21

Congratulations and thank you Louise Bilston

    Louise Bilston Louise Bilston 7:29 pm 01 Mar 21

    Thanks Nat! It was great to be part of bringing you to TNA all those years ago. Loved working with you at a state League. Thanks for all you do for netballers across the ACT

    Natalee George Natalee George 7:56 pm 01 Mar 21

    Louise Bilston you definitely were a big part of me getting back into coaching 💙💚

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