Incredibly, Anthea’s two daughters haven’t played for 14 years, yet in the build-up to the new Great Southern Netball Association season starting on Saturday, April 13 she has been among the dedicated making everything happen.
There is also politics in sport. Bluntly, some other clubs wish this one would just go away. Since the end of the 2000 season when the Port Elliot Football Club amalgamated with Goolwa, the girls have been isolated. In an environment where clubs enjoy their football and netball teams following each other to the same venue, some remain angry when the footballers play at Willunga, which doesn’t have a netball team, because it means the girls are sent to Port Elliot.
Wendy knows the PENC is seen as an inconvenience; opposition clubs resenting having their football and netball teams sent to different venues, but she points out that it happens just one Saturday for them, but for the PENC it is every week of the season.
“It is unfair,” Wendy said. “But we have had our football club taken away from us; through circumstances beyond us.”
Welcome to the politics in sport; there seems to be issues that ruffle feathers no matter the code or level. However, while this beleaguered club will struggle to win a game in its return to A1, there is a much bigger picture that should make everyone at Port Elliot feel immensely proud.
It’s more than just fielding two new teams this season, taking the numbers to four senior and nine junior teams across the board while other clubs have seen a reduction. This fulfils a responsibility to the game by creating more opportunities to play.
For some time now we have constantly read stories about how the mums & dads or carers, indeed the participants themselves, don’t help out in clubs “like they did in our day”. For so long it has been about “me, me, me” and “I’ll play if someone else organises everything”.
However, according to Wendy and Anthea, today’s new generation of mums and dads are generally more willing to help their club than perhaps their parents ever were.
“Our biggest challenge over the years – and I don’t think we are different to other clubs – has been responsibility,” Wendy said. “We had a struggle where nobody wanted to score, nobody wanted to do canteen and nobody wanted to coach or umpire, but everyone wanted things to happen. That was sport; it was not uncommon. There was this generation that expected everything and did nothing.
“But we have worked on that, and now we have a lot more players helping out with the little kids and quite enjoying it. It is improving.
“People are far more club minded now, and it is not as hard to find people to help. It seems that the new generation of parents get involved a lot more than perhaps their parents did, and the kids love it when they come along. You need to see the smiles on their faces.
“We may not be the world’s best netballers – some of our teams will have a tough year – but they still smile. It’s about enjoying netball.”
Anthea, who runs the club’s Ready Net Go program for the five-six year-olds, plus coaches the nine, 10 and 13-year-olds in between working on the committee, has been involved in netball since she was six. “I do it all because I love netball,” she said. “It’s a fun sport and kids need help, and I think their parents are seeing that. It’s about doing something in a healthy, family environment.
“People are more open to helping than they were. It just feels different. I believe it is because volunteers have been better recognised, probably since the Sydney Olympics.
“Our association does a great job in trying to develop the game. I don’t know what it would do if our club ceased to exist because we have nine junior teams, which is a lot of a kids, mostly from Hayborough, Port Elliot and Middleton. The other clubs are full. There would be nowhere for them to go, and you have got to ask yourself, what would these girls do on a Saturday if there was no netball? It’s the same with all sports.”
The spirit of the Port Elliot Netball Club was demonstrated in 2010 when, through hard work, earning grants, and the generous support of local businesses, it resurfaced its courts at a cost of nearly $30,000. The A-grade side was getting thrashed every week, but the community again saw the bigger picture – creating that opportunity for kids to play netball.
Wendy can understand why others regard her club as a nuisance, but she hopes one day they will appreciate not having a football club in the town was not their doing.
“We’re a tight-knit club,” Wendy said. “It’s not about the past but working on developing players for the future.
“Of course, it’s been challenging for everyone ever since we lost the football, but we have moved on. We might also not have the best teams in every grade and the best players may not want to join us because the winners tend to attract winners, but here every player still loves their netball and that’s what is really important.
“It can be tough when some of the better players don’t want to come here because we are not strong enough, but then you ask the young ones we have if they will help fill a gap in the canteen roster and they’ll say, ‘yeah, I’ll help out’.
“It makes you feel good about where we are trying to go with this club, and you stay on the committee, coach and umpire for another year.”
If you would like to play for the Port Elliot Netball Club, or assist in some way, contact Anthea on 8554 2243.