Netball ACT has a rich history of pioneers and achievements.
The following information are extracts from the book “Netball ACT – The History 1975 to 2000”. The book was compiled by the members of the 25th Anniversary Committee- Maureen Nette, Pat Dart, Dianne Evans, Beryl Wilkinson, Jill Malone.
A special thank you to Pat Dart for providing this information.
THE EARLY DAYS – 1942 TO 1975
The sport of Netball (known as Women’s Basketball in Australia until 1970) has long been popular and successful among women and girls, and more recently, among men. In fact, the National Associations of Australia, England and New Zealand had existed at least half a century before Netball ACT was admitted in 1975 as a member of the All Australia Netball Association Ltd (herein after referred to as Netball Australia).
A history of the Netball ACT would not be complete without recalling earlier days or those people who were among the pioneers of the development of Netball in the ACT and then went on to take an active part in the formation and success of the Territory Association.
Affiliation with New South Wales
In the early 1940s interested persons in the Nation’s Capital joined together to form a Netball Association, named it the ‘ACT Women’s Basket Ball Association’, and affiliated with the New South Wales Women’s Basket Ball Association ‑ later to become the New South Wales Netball Association Ltd (hereinafter referred to as Netball NSW).
Certainly Netball was played earlier than this in the ACT, mainly within and between schools, but nothing is known of any earlier formal Association. In the period to 1950, prominent among the teams were YWCA (organised by Glad Fair), Girls Grammar (coached by Pat Googo), together with Canberra High School, St Patricks, St Christophers and
St Gregorys, organisations which numbered among the coaching and playing personnel Jo Grimsley, Hazel Pollack, Judy Alexander, Pat Ware and the late Gwen Botten who were to play a part later in the formation of Netball ACT.
By the early 1950s Technical College, Baptists, Woolworths, Guides, Waratahs, Congregational, Causeway, Ainslie, Westridge, Corrobee Park, West Queanbeyan (founded by Judy Byrnes), Thistles (founded by Hazel Pollack) and Magpies (founded by Adele Pight) had joined the Netball Association. Judy and Adele were to become inaugural Executive members of Netball ACT and Adele the first ACT coach.
The number of senior teams in competition increased each year (for instance, in the early 1960s Canberra High had some 29 teams in the seniors) and, as Canberra developed, Primary Schools also joined until by 1970 the Association had affiliated some 18 Primary Schools.
In this period Netball ACT was forced to change its ‘home’ a number of times due to urban development needs. Early playing grounds included Telopea Park High School, Acton Flats (since submerged under Lake Burly Griffin) and two locations in Turner near the Australian National University. Finally, and with some reluctance, Netball ACT settled in at Southwell Park, Lyneham, a major concern being whether the players would ‑find it too far to ride their ‘bikes’ to the courts!
All the courts rented or leased from the local Government Authority were grass, and this type of surface presented some difficult playing conditions, particularly on a cold, frosty morning! From the late 1970s, after comprehensive fund raising and tight control of budgets within the District Association, asphalt courts were constructed at Lyneham and subsequently in other areas, with financial assistance from Local Government, on a ‘dollar for dollar’ basis.
Indoor facilities were very limited and it was to be years before indoor competition commenced. Some will remember practising at night in the Army Drill Hall near Civic, a forerunner to School and University gymnasiums.
Highlights from the Early Years
As early as the 1940s, teams representing Netball ACT traveled interstate. ‘Country Week’ was held in New South Wales in those days ‑ later to be changed to Netball NSW Championships ‑ and teams from the ACT were regular entrants, with some success. Former players will recall traveling by train and staying at the YWCA. This annual event, social visits and Carnivals held in Sydney or country Associations provided the only opportunities for players to compete outside of the ACT, although it was recalled that in 1944 four teams traveled to Sydney to play a round of matches which had been arranged between Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and in 1945 a team went to Melbourne to compete in a competition.
When teams from ACT entered Carnivals held in country towns, success at the end of the day sometimes meant playing the Final near dusk, with lighting by car headlights. The playing surfaces left a lot to be desired, too, with gravel courts being experienced at times.
Unlike now, there was no opportunity for players to play regularly at National level but representative ‘A’ Grade teams did compete against visiting International teams that were being hosted by Netball NSW. Up until 1970, these teams had included England, Singapore, New Zealand and some of its regional teams and Papua New Guinea. In 1970, South Africa played in Canberra in what was almost its last appearance on the international Netball scene for some time. Those present at that game would not easily forget the athletic and Netball ability of the South African players, or the drama of the anti-apartheid demonstrations.
Another highlight of the 1970s, and which proved to be a ‘one off until 1999, occurred in 1972 when a compilation team from the ACT participated in regular competition in another State, namely the Netball NSW Inter‑District ‘A’ Grade competition. The team that competed in 1972 played on a home and away basis and performed above all expectations, failing only at the Grand Final when beaten by Manly. Generally, the team travelled by car with some funding assistance Netball ACT and those players who decided to travel up the night before a Match paid for their own accommodation.
In 1970, with participant numbers increasing, Netball NSW approved the division of the ACT District Association into two ‑ the Canberra Netball Association (CNA)and the South Canberra Netball Association (SCNA). CNA remained at the Southwell Park Lyneham complex and SCNA at Deakin West, near the Mint. A Sub-Association of CNA had been conducting competitions in the South Canberra area over the two previous years, initially using four mainly dirt courts at Chifley School. It was not to be too long before the new District Association was rivalling its former Parent Body in size and performance.
Time To Stand Alone
By 1973 Netball had been thriving in the ACT for more than three decades. At combined Meetings CNA and SCNA decided to strike out alone and form a Netball Association separate to NSW. Before this could happen, however, Netball NSW had to agree to support an application from a Territory Association to become a member of the All Australia Netball Association (Netball Australia). CNA and SCNA delegates spent many hours in discussions together and with Netball NSW before that Body’s sanction was forthcoming. If it can be realised that the playing membership in the ACT at that time was far less than most of the larger Sydney Associations, then it is easier to understand NSW’s cautious approach to ACT’s desire to become a separate Territory.
An Open Meeting was held on 11 November 1974 to gain general support to forming an ACT Netball Association and applying to Netball Australia for membership as a separate Territory. The Meeting was chaired by Miss Jo Grimsley, a well respected, former teacher from Canberra High School, an active member of the Netball fraternity in the ACT since about 1943, and who later became the first Patroness of the new Association. At this open meeting the name ‘Australian Capital Territory Netball Association’ and a Constitution were adopted and an Interim Executive Committee elected to take up office in 1975. These first office bearers were:
President Vice President
Mrs Marj McMahon Mrs Judy Byrnes
Mrs Dale Wells Mrs Elspeth Leslie
Minute Secretary Liaison Officer
Mrs Pat Ware Miss Maureen Nette
Umpires Convenor Promotions Officer
Mrs Beryl Wilkinson Mrs Dianne Evans
Coaches Coordinator Intermediate/Junior Coordinator
Mrs Adele Pight Mrs Judy Alexander
Financing the New Association
Until this time the fledgling Association’s only funding came by way of loans of $200 each from CNA and SCNA. One of the first tasks, then, was to set up a finance structure, a structure that for many years was to rely solely on levies imposed on affiliated District Associations and fund raising, Gradually, Government financial assistance and sponsorship came forth to ease the burden on the playing membership.
The Association held its first Meeting on 25 November 1974 and then commenced work on the submission to Netball Australia to become a separate Territory. At the same time it was moving, with caution, to set itself up as the Organisation which would promote and control the game of Netball in the ACT.
Entering the National Netball Arena
On 1 October 1975 the Association was admitted to Netball Australia, after a Territories Clause had been added to the National Body’s Constitution to allow other than States to be accepted. Thus, the dreams of the ACT Netball fraternity were realised and none more so than those of Mrs Marj McMahon who was the first to put forward that it was time to take this radical step, and who never wavered in her belief or her persuasion of other members.
To mark this historic occasion for Netball in the ACT, the then Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of Netball Australia, Mrs Gwen Benzie, and the President of Netball NSW at the time, the late Miss Anne Clark, addressed the New Association’s first Annual General Meeting on 27 October 1975.
Address by Miss Anne Clark
Miss Clark stated that she was honoured to be present and attended with mixed feelings ‑ sadness at losing two loyal District Associations from NSW and happiness that the ACT had achieved its aims. She expressed the hope that the Association would set itself high standards and from her long associaJon with many of the members felt confident that this would be so. Miss Clark relayed Netball NSW’s congratulations on the formation of the new Association and the belief that it would be successful if the members displayed loyalty, tolerance and understanding towards each other. She concluded by thanking the Association for giving her the privilege of attending the Meeting.
Address by Mrs Gwen Benzie
Mrs Benzie supported Miss Clark’s remarks and gave credit to her and the Netball NSW Executive for the success and progress of Netball in the ACT, adding that this success was due partly to Miss Clark’s ability to adapt to and help implement new ideas and changes over the years of her Presidency. Mrs Benzie offered her congratulations to the new Association and expressed confidence that it would be successful. She offered her thanks for the friendship and companionship she had received during her visit to the ACT.
The Inaugural Executive elected at this Meeting was:
President Vice President
Mrs Marj McMahon Mrs Jill Malone
Mrs Dale Wells Mrs Elspeth Leslie
Minute Secretary Liaison Officer
Ms Denise Whyte Ms Maureen Nette
Umpires Convenor Promotions Officer
Mrs Beryl Wilkinson Mrs Dianne Evans
Coaches Coordinator Intermediate/Junior Coord
Mrs Adele Pight Mrs Maria Madgewick
INTO THE BIG POND – 1976 TO 1996
Netball ACT bounded into 1976 confident of its ability to fulfil the objectives it had set. These objectives which can be found in the guiding principles of the Association today were:
v To promote and control the game of Netball in the Australian Capital Territory.
v To promote competition matches between affiliated District Associations and to institute, regulate and control all Championships of the Association.
v To select and manage Territory representative teams.
v To cooperate with similar Organisations in other States (and the Northern Territory) for the furtherance of Netball.
v To affiliate with and support the All Australia Netball Association Ltd.
More District Associations
The ACT’s population continued to expand and this expansion generated a growth in the number of registered Netballers and in the number of affiliated Associations.
A Sub-Association for junior and intermediate players had been formed in Belconnen in time for the 1974 season, playing at Weetangera Oval. In the next season (1975) senior players were added and the Organisation was admitted to full membership of Netball ACT as the Belconnen Netball Association in
September of that year, located at the then new Charnwood complex.
In 1974 and 1975 a Sub-Association of SCNA was operated, initially playing on courts at the Duffy Sports Ground, and in 1975 becoming the Arawang Netball Association. One of the first actions of Netball ACT was to admit Arawang to full membership in February 1976, with its headquarters at Stirling. ANA’s Inaugural President, and Life Member, Judy Eastwell worked exhaustively in the development years of the new District.
The ever increasing number of women and girls from the Tuggeranong Valley registering to play led to the Tuggeranong Netball Association being formed and granted membership of Netball ACT in 1985. As Inaugural President, Mick Rudling, took on the task of leading the development of this large growth area. Earlier, from 1982, TNA played at Kambah under the guidance of Arawang. In 1988 TNA moved to its present location. Each of the District Associations is an autonomous body under the umbrella of Netball ACT and each has its own headquarters and Netball courts.
As a consequence of Netball ACT’s accelerating responsibilities and to enhance its prospects of attracting funding through Government Grants and sponsorship, it became a Corporate Body on 28 April 1980. In the same year it was realised that its administration could no longer rely solely on the good will of volunteers, in terms of time and facilities. Thus, Netball ACT opened its first office, located in the Canberra Building Society Offices, City Walk, Canberra City (supplied by courtesy of the Society). When this accommodation became unavailable, temporary use of the Southwell Park Netball Pavilion was offered by Canberra Netball Association until offices were rented in Ipswich Street, Fyshwick, from 1982 to 1984. From 1 November 1984 Netball ACT operated from Room 9 at ACT Sports House, Maitland Street, Hackett, which many will remember as the former Primary School. In October 1990 its headquarters were moved to the present location at the ACT Netball Centre, Southwell Park, Lyneham.
In 1980, assisted by funding from the Sports Development Fund, Netball ACT employed its first full time Administrative/Promotions Officer. It was a timely appointment, anticipating the huge effort that Netball ACT would need to make towards the end of 1980 and up until September 1981 when the National Open and Under 21 Championships were due to be held in Canberra for the first time.
In order to keep pace with and take advantage of programs being generated by the National Association, Netball ACT realised that the voluntary contribution needed further supplementation. Midway through 1982 a part time Coaching Director was appointed and in 1983, this position was updated to that of a full time Coaching Director, again through funding from the Sports Development Fund and with a sponsorship grant from Esso Australia. Currently, the position is titled Coaching and Development Officer and is funded by Netball ACT, apart from a small subsidy from Netball Australia.
The introduction of the Coaching Director (and later the Umpires Development Officer) was a far cry from the days in the 1950s when Jo Grimsley was titled ‘Coach and Umpiring Teacher’ and gave lectures on umpiring, coached umpires and players, supervised theory examinations and marked the papers.
With the advent of the ACT Netball Centre in 1990, the accelerating growth in playing numbers and the expansion of programs that were being offered, to these three positions were added:
1990 ACT Centre Manager and support staff
1993 An Umpiring Development Officer to coordinate improvement in the standard and the number of umpires.
1995 A Registrar to input data for accurate electronic records of membership to satisfy Government and National Body requirements and for insurance purposes.
1997 An Executive Director to accord with the change in the management structure.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGE – 1997 TO 2000
Netball ACT is an Organisation committed to continuous improvement and progression, aiming to consistently provide quality services to its valued members and the wider community. This commitment is demonstrated through effective management practices in all facets of the Organisation. Over the years since its development, Netball ACT has earned, and values an excellent administrative record. Not content with the success of the past, Netball ACT has forged ahead introducing many new programs and concepts that should ensure its continued success in this new Century.
In 1997 a significant change took place within Netball ACT. Through a restructure, a Board of Directors was formed replacing the former Executive Committee. In the years since, the Board’s position in the Organisation has been firmly established with more efficient management practices and improved integration of the various sections of Netball ACT. Consisting of President, Technical and Executive Directors and District nominees, the Board focuses on the future. setting the strategic direction of Netball ACT. The Executive Director manages activities, staff and procedures, and is responsible for the realisation of the Organisation’s operational and Strategic Plans on a daily basis, including the operation and programs of the ACT Netball Centre.