I am an international Rugby Union 15’s player, playing for the Australian Wallaroos.
I have been in this team since 2006. I’ve played in two World Cups and played in several test matches, and loved every minute of it.
Recently I have found a need for change, to broaden my horizons. Normally Netball would not be my choice in sport, being a Rugby Union player, Netball is almost considered the enemy. It is supposedly non contact sport, skirt wearing and very popular amongst the females. It is seen as a glamorous sport, where the girls present themselves to a high standard prior to getting sweaty. Rugby, by the nature of the sport, is the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, a large number of female Rugby Union players love donning a dress and lippy for a Saturday night out, it’s just that on the field, mouth guards, shorts and head gear don’t accentuate the female form.
So back to my horizon broadening experience. I fell into the sport of Netball via a series of fortunate events. I trialled with the East Tigers team in early January to gain some experience in the sport. I was competing with a large number of keen, talented and skilful young girls and was fortunate enough to be selected in the team, coached by Mel O’Brien.
My intentions with Netball are to give it 100% commitment, whilst developing my own game of Rugby Union. I aim to make the Olympics in 2016 in the Rugby Union 7’s format and I feel that this Netball experience will assist me in achieving that goal. Whilst I’ve stepped back a little bit from my Rugby commitments for the year, the experience I’m gaining with Netball can only improve my Rugby skills in the long run. I’m a physically strong looking girl, being 184cm and a little bit shy of 90kg, so I’ve got a natural advantage in the Rugby Union 15’s format. The 7’s format is something that I have to work harder at, and this is where Netball comes into play – pun intended.
Netball is a sport played on a 360° court. Play can move in any direction, left, right, forward, backwards. Players are forced to have 100% situational awareness, needing to look up, across and down the court, knowing where their team mates and the opposition are. I think of Rugby (simplified) is a more two dimensional sport, with the ball being played laterally. Rarely am I too concerned with what is going on behind me (of course knowledge of a backline set up etc and where on the field play is being conducted is vital) but generally speaking, the opposition is in front, my team mates are next to and behind me and the ball is moving laterally up the field. If I am able to pick up the skill of thinking 360° and take it to the Rugby field, this will assist me in playing a smarter game of Rugby, being able to read the consequences of my actions both up and down the field. This is something Mel has taught me over the last few weeks.
My ball catch and passing skills is also something I continually need to work on. My role as a 15’s play is based around the set play of scrumming and line outs as well as running rucks to secure the ball, occasionally making one or two runs off the ruck. I’m never a play maker and I don’t have the natural ability to make any flashy speculator moves that is beneficial to the 7’s game. Playing Netball will hopefully give me some of the skills I need to play the more flamboyant style of 7’s I lack. Netball is assisting my catching skills and improving my reaction times to catching the ball. Due to the size of a netball court, compared to a Rugby pitch, moves are played in a compressed area. Reaction times to the netball needs to be faster and more instinctual, where Rugby for me, I have more time to think and anticipate where the ball might go. My passing skills will always be something I have to work on, both in Netball and especially Rugby.
Netball is improving my fitness and work rate over short distances, and forcing me to gain speed in the initial 2 – 3 meters. I’ve usually relied on my speed picking up over 20 – 30 meters with Rugby, having a reputation for field length “Forrest Gump” style gallops, my short distance has previously let me down on the field. Netball requires girls to move quickly off the mark and then work in an opposite direction, the whole time maintaining speed and control.
I’ve usually blamed my lack of ability to step like a fly half dancer on my size 13 feet and 6’ frame, however Netball has proved my wrong. I’ve discovered a secret society of big feet and gorgeously tall girls who have the stepping skills of Channing Tatum in the movie “Step Up”. They have the ability to shift their weight appropriately and move around the court with as much agility as any Rugby 7’s player. The drills Mel incorporates into her coaching sessions have already improved my footwork on the Netball court and I am sure they will be carried onto the Rugby Field.
I am proud when I say I’ve been bitten by the Netball bug. The last couple of months have opened my eyes to the world of Netball. I’ve bought my first pair of bright white, new and shiny Netburners. Each Monday and Tuesday I have a little ball of excitement in my gut. I arrive at Ormiston College pumped for training with Mel and the girls. This excitement is fuelled with the knowledge the girls I play with are quality players and wonderful women. The coaching provided by Mel is outstanding. Her sessions are structured and full of purpose with a clear aim, objective and outcome. I’m sure Mel has taken a risk by selecting me in her team. Coaching a non netball player to a state league standard in a few months must be challenging for any coach. I always walk away from a session with my head full of new knowledge, thinking about each drill late into the night. I also would like to acknowledge how accepting the girls have been of me into their team. I haven’t been dedicated to the sport for my teen years or much of my 20’s, yet the girls have accepted me as a team mate and are always willing to help me out when needed. I’ve gone from never watching a game of elite Netball, to getting excited about watching all ANZ games on ONEHD, trying to identify the skills Mel has taught me over the previous week. Whilst it would be unfair to compare the two sports side by side, I can say that I have definitely found Netball to be challenging, physical and demanding on the mind and body. I will never scoff at the sport and will only have admiration for all players from junior players all the way to Australian Representatives, my opinion coming full circle, or 360°. Now I’m just counting down until our first game, eight weeks to go!
Written by Katie Porter