1500 players prepare for extended Rocky netball season
NETBALL: A total of 161 teams will compete in the Rockhampton Netball Association's 2018 season, which gets under way today.
RNA treasurer Julie-Ann Thackeray said 50 senior, 95 junior and 16 minis teams would hit the court in what was a milestone year.
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the association, which was founded by life members Lexie Reed, Mavis Seery, Merle Horan and Irene Hutcheon in 1968.
From humble beginnings it now has more than 1500 registered players, a major reason why netball is the biggest female participation sport in Central Queensland.
Thackeray said Rockhampton Netball had seen similar numbers for the past few years, and was always looking at ways to continue growing the game.
"It's going to be a big year,” she said.
"We have just over 160 teams; the majority of them are juniors but we also have a very strong senior competition as well, culminating with seven teams in the Rockhampton Leagues Club Senior A competition.”
Thackeray said that all teams, except those in Senior A, would enjoy a longer season this year.
They will play for 22 weeks - four weeks of grading and 18 weeks of competition - compared to 18 weeks last year.
"That was the consensus from the netball community of Rockhampton - they wanted a longer season,” Thackeray said.
"It also makes sense for us to be using the facilities at Jardine Park for as long as we can, rather than having them sit idle.”
Thackeray has been involved in netball in some capacity for more than 20 years. She played as a teenager and now her two daughters play.
"It's a really good family sport. We have quite a few mothers and daughters involved and we even have a few grandmothers playing as well,” she said.
"I think it's also an easy sport to get into, anyone can come along and give it a go and there are plenty of clubs in the association.
"We have kids as young as five in our Net Set Go program and that often starts their junior careers and they follow it through to the seniors.”
Thackeray said the ongoing success of local teams in school competitions such as QISSN and the profile of Queensland State Netball League team, the Frenchville Sports Club Capricorn Claws, were also helping foster interest in the game.
Thackeray said with Jardine Park at "full capacity”, RNA was looking at the possibility of expansion.
"We have plans in place to move forward and to grow the sport,” she said.
"We want to ensure we're offering players of any age and skill level the opportunity to have fun in a safe environment and we want them to come back and keep doing it.”