A netball team of girls born in a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Burma have received new uniforms ahead of the season start in April.
The team from Golden City Netball Association in Bendigo are the epitome of persistence. Before coming to Australia almost five years ago, many of the girls had never been to school and most spoke little or no English. They have worked hard to overcome obstacles but continue to face hardships on a daily basis with family members still detained in refugee camps.
Some have given up hope of reunification with family members relocated to other countries. One child said goodbye to her father who became chronically ill inside the refugee camp and lost any chance of being released. Despite these hardships, they continue to persist and support one another both on and off the court.
In the first season, the team did not shoot a single goal. None of the girls had played netball before and – with their limited understanding of the English language – had learnt the rules by watching other teams play.
The team entered a local tournament that season and competed in borrowed uniforms. They didn’t score all day. Ten straight games with no reward and still the girls were smiling and laughing.
In the twilight season of 2014, the team pictured above, entered the Under 17 competition. The coach had no expectation of a win let alone a finals appearance, but the team amazed everyone and were runners up in their section.
In the five years since they began playing netball, they have given it their all and the sport has given back to them. Overwhelmed by the support of local community groups, their love for the sport has grown.
“I didn’t really understand the game at the start but we had a lot of fun, I like to have a fun time,” player Eh Thout said.
Lightning Reef teammate Ma Ay said that she also has a lot of fun playing netball, “I started with a different team but like this one better. I play more and am learning more all the time.”
After five years of netball, from the very inauspicious beginnings of no goals and no wins, the girls can now claim a Saturday Winter Competition Championship, a Twilight Championship and a Twilight runners up title.
This story highlights that there are no prerequisites for playing netball. Our sport has the power to inspire and unite communities, the power to create leaders and break down cultural barriers, and the power to enrich the lives of all Victorian communities.
For information on how you can play netball or how your club or association can become more inclusive, please contact Netball Victoria Community Development Manager Cassandra Hadson on 9321 2237 or [email protected]
Alternatively, check out our online resources and digital case studies here.