The first time I played Netball — or “nettie” as I affectionately labeled it — was because I caved after months and months of pestering by a woman in the office who managed/captained our work’s crappy mixed netball team.
Every Tuesday afternoon she started fretting as she realised the team was significantly down on the required 7 persons necessary. It was an exercise I wish I had paid more attention to — because I would soon be a nettie captain and be just as desperate — doing the exact same begging and cajoling and handing over my own cash just to make up for the deadshits who negated responsibilities.
So that Tuesday I very reluctantly agreed and turned up to the courts at the Valley and cut my nails as best I could and put on a bib and tried my best to pay attention for the 1 minute I got to hear the RULES. And there were many rules. (More on that later). To my sheer and absolute surprise — I actually enjoyed it. And this was despite the fact I seemed to break every single of the many, many rules in Netball — and repeatedly — but still I went home that night just a bit interested.
And so of course the next week someone from the work team was missing so I said again, “yeah, alright.” But unbeknownst to me at that moment from then on I played nettie every single week, and for a year or so — twice-a-week — until the team was eventually dissolved in 2008. In that period I only missed nettie for only a few weeks, just once, when I went overseas. And even then I was so committed I organised some replacements via phone from Europe.
But still Nettie was a mystery. It had all those rules and it took me many months to work it all out. In the beginning practically every time I touched the ball or was even near the ball I would get in trouble with the referee. And the rules of nettie make any person infringing said rules so acutely accountable. If you get in trouble you are made to stand in the “naughty-corner”. Nettie is one of the only sports where a penalised player is taken out of play and made to stand next to the opposing team’s player who is awarded the penalty.
But gradually I worked it all out, not before I wrote a song about Nettie. It was called “There’s too many rules in Netball”
Meanwhile my fitness grew and the competition was cool and I was soon obsessed. I joined a second team, and then a third, and then I would show up incredibly early for nettie hoping to get a game with a random team that was short of a player and if that didn’t work just spending ages with a ball and a net practicing my shooting skillz.
OUR LOSER WORK TEAM
How that team kept going — losing, and losing so harshly each and every match — is an achievement we should be proud of. It was an epic weekly self-flagellation.
And that first year of nettie was quite miserable in a competitive sense. We lost that first game, and we lost each and every other game we played. Once we came so close to victory but lost at the last moment. When that team won they were so surprised and so excited because that happened to be their first ever victory and as I was shaking hands with everyone at the end of the match I heard them start to organise post game drinks to celebrate. That loss felt particularly brutal.
The work team was a bit of a revelation. It was pretty profound seeing work-mates, including those on rungs much higher — in such a different, well “venue”. And competitive sport, no matter how humble, can get a bit “primal”. That’s all I will say.
Eventually the work team dissolved. I wasn’t disappointed. I had realised that team historically had some dramas. Initially it seemed crazy to me to hear of their stories of fights on court and all-in-brawls and the netball-centres where they were banned — but then I experienced all that nonsense for myself. I was usually very calm out there on court but once when I was playing GA and getting practically assaulted by this loser playing GD – I realised he stank of alcohol. And I got so righteous and angry I shouted at the referee (and so loudly everyone on the court could hear) that he was intoxicated and he was behaving appallingly. She nodded or something similar but literally just shrugged her shoulders. Nettie was just a few rungs higher than anarchy. “What hope is there for the world,” I thought.
Once I got in a “proper” team (sorry work) — the whole adventure seemed to improve and make sense. And being “competitive” was pretty cool. My skills improved and I was even more interested. Eventually I came to “captain” that team and it was an effort with all the organising and begging. But I loved nettie so much I suffered in silence. And they were all such nice people like Emma and Jackson and Cath and Nicole and Michael and Amy and Alannah and Ally etc.
Often I will write these blogs and get the hits in my wordpress stats and just assume every person in those hits has read every single word of this entry. But I’ve learnt that is never, ever the case.
So just for you who actually stop to read all this bullshit I will tell you this is the most important and personally revealing bit: I am highly competitive but I feel so guilty if I win by too much. It seems I have a “fairness” gene. If ever we were in a nettie game and we were winning too much I sometimes just “accidentally” threw a bad pass just in a vain hope to make things more even. I hated those games. I would rather lose by a billion than effortlessly defeat an opposing team.
I guess that’s what endeared me to the work team. But when I joined another team suddenly we started winning occasionally. Once we even made the finals which were played on a Saturday and one of our defenders turned up 10 minutes late and cost us the game. Ugh. But that’s nettie.
I suspect I have fractured two ribs at nettie. Both involved a collision with a much shorter woman, probably WA, smashing her head into my ribs. And I think both of those times was a collision with someone on my own team! At the time I was more worried about the woman involved — but both times she was like, “Whatever”. Meanwhile I was feeling ugly but dismissed that initial pain and soldiered on because adrenaline is your friend. But then later that night as my chest started swelling and the pain went into overdrive I realised I was damaged. Both times I went to a GP sometimes gasping for breath but there was nothing they could do.
SKILLZ (written at the time)
Once at band practice, whilst seriously affected by alcohol, I accidentally locked the band in my garage and then I went outside to check how much noise we were making and then locked myself out of the house. So they were locked in and I was locked out. After I explained this to the rest of the band, Wintah shouted that he desperately needed to go to the toilet and I contemplated panicking. Instead I drew upon my sweet nettie skillz and went round to the side of my house, climbed up the side and carefully pulled out the bathroom lourves, one at a time, and climbed down with each of them so as not to break anything. Then I climbed through the tiny gap in the window I had created and freed the boys just as Wintah was about to pee into a cup. Phew!
At the height of my nettie obsession I formed a band with Little Jess called “Wing Defence” — cause wing defence (WD) is the nettie position that is arguably the least important and where you put fill-ins. And now I think about it – that is where I started. Adam Scott suggested the name it should be said.
Wing Defence played at least 3 gigs which seems unbelievable to me now.
THE END OF NETBALL
Once I had started riding bikes nettie got boring and more a chore and the perpetual struggle to organise a full team every week was just fucking evil. “FUCK IT,” I decided. So our spot wasn’t renewed and I walked away that night never really looking back. I do miss it occasionally, but at the same time I am pretty damn cool with the independence of cycling.