In the Beginning: Netball at the University of Melbourne
01 August; Abbey McNally and Rod Warnecke
Arguably Australia’s most popular women’s sport, netball has had a long and proud connection with the University of Melbourne. From pioneering players, to key administrators and coaches, state and national representatives, to today’s participation and high-performance programs, it’s fair to say our netball community has been a significant contributor to the sport in Australia as we celebrate 100 years of netball at the University of Melbourne.
In the beginning, the sport was originally called ‘women’s basketball’ and originated as a form of non-contact sport for women (it would take some four decades before the sport eventually adopted netball as its moniker). The sport had been established just before the First World War in Melbourne schools, and the Melbourne University Basketball Club was established in August 1920 for female students who’d played the game at school and wished to continue in the sport. In 1921, the club was allowed £5 for goal posts, nets and ball. Two University teams began playing in the School Basketball Association in 1922 – the A team was captained by Miss J. Maxwell. Games were played outdoors and as the sport grew, the Victorian Basketball Association was formed. The sport looked very different when compared with today’s game, with interesting playing positions such as ‘full goal’ and ‘help defence’, according to The Argus newspaper of 1925.
From a small group of women playing on the University Oval wearing leather shoes and collared shirts and ties, to 100 years later, where players now run around in University-branded A-line body suits in specifically designed on-campus facilities under the tutelage of some of Australia’s best coaches and administrators. Netball has provided countless women at the University with friendships and experiences that have, and will, last a lifetime. In the beginning, 100 years ago, could any of those pioneering netballers have dared to dream that netball at the University of Melbourne would become the longest running, continuous netball program in Victoria, and possibly Australia. One can only wonder.
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