Community rallies to keep Ballarat netball in top competition

NETBALLER Kathryn O’Dwyer’s first memory of the game was playing with her younger sister Gracie at the family home.

UNCERTAIN: Rising stars of netball, Gracie and Kathryn O’Dwyer, fear for the future of Ballarat Pride – the city’s pathway into state netball. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

UNCERTAIN: Rising stars of netball, Gracie and Kathryn O’Dwyer, fear for the future of Ballarat Pride – the city’s pathway into state netball. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

“We used to have a netball ring and my little sister and I would muck around and get really into it,” Kathryn said. 

“Dad would quiz me on where each player should be on the court. It got me motivated.” 

But as of last month, the 16-year-old and many promising young players are now doubtful of their future in the game.

Ballarat’s only pathway team into the state netball competition, Ballarat Pride, was effectively axed from the Victorian Netball League. 

The decision has left the Pride fighting for a licence in the state competition, with the news rattling rising stars Kathryn, Gracie and their teammates. 

“It is shattering,” Kathryn said. 

“I am really into my netball. I love it so much and it is one of my biggest passions.” 

Her sister, Gracie, 15, is in a similar frame of mind. 

“It is really disappointing,” she said. 

“I’d love Pride to stay in the league. I’m a big fan.” 

If Ballarat Pride is unsuccessful in regaining its licence, junior netballers will need to join teams outside of Ballarat for a chance to play at a state level. 

Kathryn was selected to play in the Ballarat Pride under-19 development squad, after working her way up from the Dela under-13 teams.

She also plays for Ballarat under-17, Bungaree A Grade, Bungaree 17s and under and Ballarat Grammar’s senior team. 

“We always had that pathway that goes to Pride. Now it may be getting cut off,” she said. 

Gracie is uncertain of her future path.

“This is my fourth year of squad netball. Now I’m questioning whether it has been a waste of time,” she said. 

Mother and netballer Barbara O’Dwyer is equally disappointed. “So many juniors have done the right thing and now that opportunity has been taken away,” she said.  

Ms O’Dwyer said she was prepared to take her children out of Ballarat for training.

“If they wanted to do it and I knew they would successfully complete all of their schooling requirements, I would go anywhere they would have to go,” she said. 

Netball Victoria expects to announce its 10th VNL licensee in July.

kara.irving@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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