Ed Husic - Tribute to Netball Speech March 17,2014 Federation Chamber

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:59): It is great to be here with you in this great chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want to congratulate the member for McPherson on two counts. First, this is a terrific resolution and is most definitely worthy of the House's consideration. Second, I want to commend her on her persuasion powers: to be able to get me as a fan of basketball to speak about netball is something else. I now extend to you due deference from this point onwards in your ability to be able to do that.

I speak on this resolution quite willingly, particularly from a local perspective, because I have seen two fantastic associations in our area, the Blacktown netball association and the Mount Druitt Netball Association, do wonderful things over an extended period of time and I want to devote my contribution to this resolution to reflect on the work that they have done in their area.

It has already been covered in the course of this discussion about our strength in netball. While our female basketballers do tremendously well on the international stage, it is netball where we are in rarefied air, where we have held our heads up so high for so long. It comes down to strong local competitions providing a talent pool that can be drawn upon for local, state and then national and international competition.

In our area the birth of netball incidentally started out being known as basket ball—two separate words—in Blacktown. It goes all the way back 44 years when about 500 leaflets were letterboxed to local homes and about 50 people turned up to a tiny scout hall that could only seat a few, to kick of the Blacktown netball association. From that day forward, a very hardworking executive committee made up of women from six foundation school clubs set about teaching young women everything they needed to know about throwing, catching, keeping their feet still, aiming, shooting and even umpiring—all from six rule books that were present that they were able to get their hands on.

The year of 1967, unfortunately, proved to be very wet and that caused no end of frustration for the organisers and their students, but the association was alive and well and never took a backwards step. So successful was the recruitment drive that hundreds of local girls would flock each weekend to the handful of courts that existed. This caused no end of heartache for our local government association of Blacktown council, because there simply weren't enough courts to play on.

Enter Joan Sookee, the mother of four daughters. Driven by hundreds of new members keen to take up the sport, she successfully stood for Blacktown council and, under her watch, council approved permanent playing fields or courts for the sport, ironically still known as basket ball, until an official name change in 1970 to netball. Rightly, Alderman Sookee was then honoured each year with one of the major awards in her name being handed out to local achievers.

The local army of mums and players became organised at our opening day in March complete with a brass band that started in playing fields from 1968. As their skills improved, stars began to emerge, including Michelle Collyer, nee Eldred, who became the first Australian rep in 1977, followed by someone who was an attendee at my old school of Blacktown South, Keeley Devery, in the 1980s. So Western Sydney netball was placed well and truly on the map.

The other association that sprung up is Mount Druitt Association, whose president Margaret Weir joins the president of the Blacktown association, Sandra Marks, in being figureheads for the sport in our area, playing out at Blackett. Teams like the Dolphins, Electric Blue, Emerald, Good Shepherd, Hebersham, Hassall Grove, Glendenning Sparks, Tregear, All Stars, Fire Birds, Fusion and New Beginnings all turn out to do their best at Dot Lamerton Netball Complex at Blackett. Those two associations are doing great things.

The final moments of my speech, however, will be focused on this one thing: as I mentioned earlier, rain is a terrible enemy of weekend netball and, if you do not play, it gets forfeited. We need to see in our area an indoor complex that can house netball games, that can provide wet-weather ability to continue those games but can also provide a platform for other sports like futsal to play. I urge Blacktown council to find the wherewithal to fund the development of such a complex in ours, the largest council in the state. But, again, member for McPherson, thank you putting a spotlight on what is a terrific sport, doing great things for women and young girls in our area.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Griggs ): Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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