Of all the things champion netballer and former Diamond Kim Ravaillion has prepared for – representing Australia 60 times, winning gold medals and becoming a first-time mum in the peak of COVID-19 lockdown – this was not one of them.
She was at the centre of a controversial media storm.
AFL club Collingwood blames Ravaillion for dumping their long-term star, and her fiancee, Adam Treloar, the headlines read.
There were claims Treloar “wouldn’t cope” with the separation when Ravaillion travelled north to join the Queensland Firebirds taking their baby daughter, Georgie, with her.
The midfielder had played for Collingwood for four years and had five seasons left on his contract.
Yet when the club discovered Ravaillion, 27, would leave her former netball team Collingwood Magpies, and Melbourne, to rejoin the Firebirds, it was used to justify sacking Treloar.
Reports circled of Collingwood telling Treloar he no longer had the support of senior players, he wouldn’t be able to perform without Ravaillion and Georgie by his side and the club was concerned about his wellbeing.
“All those sh***y lies were not the reason they got rid of him, there was another reason,” says Ravaillion of the drama that unfolded in October and November last year.
It’s understood Collingwood were eyeing off new players and were keen to sack Treloar, 27, to relieve pressure on its salary cap.
Passionate fans protested against the star’s axing as the rift grew personal.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” says Ravaillion reflecting on the controversy.
“They (Collingwood) started to say to Adam, ‘it’s bad for your mental health’, ‘you won’t be able to handle the move’ and Adam said, ‘that’s up to me, it’s not up to you to decide.
“Then they started to blame it on me. They were making excuses for why he’s going when in actual fact they just wanted him gone. You feel like you trust someone (the club) and then it all goes.”
It seemed like the pair were being punished, not celebrated, for both having successful sporting careers.
It was a low blow and Ravaillion says Treloar deserved more but so did she.
What was overlooked in the swirling winds of the storm was one of Australia’s best female athletes, and now new mum, returning to the game after 12 months off to have a baby.
Ravaillion wasn’t just a “WAG”, as she was described in reports linked to Treloar, but one of the country’s best netballers with 60 Diamonds caps and a World Championship win to her name.
Her fire for the game was still strong and she was far from done.
The couple had long discussed her return to the court and Ravaillion knew her fiancee was right there cheering her on. She wasn’t about to let an AFL club dictate their situation.
Together they vowed to do what they needed to nurture both their sporting careers.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I said to Adam, ‘my career is not over and you have to realise that and if I want to go back to play, I’m going to do that’. He was so supportive and amazing.
“I did mention living interstate … I knew he was 100 per cent going to back me, which made me feel so much more ready to do it.”
The decision to do long distance was personal and should be up to the couple, felt Ravaillion, not a move for which an AFL club could take advantage.
“It’s like any normal person deciding on a job, except we’re in the sporting eye, any couple or person goes through this, we’ve just highlighted it,” says Ravaillion.
Meanwhile, this was happening at a time when the football club, like many others, had no qualms separating the team from their families and partners potentially for months when they moved the AFL season to Queensland last year.
Ravaillion moved interstate to join the AFL hub and support her partner for four months with Georgie, who was only three-months-old at the time.
So why now, when she was offered her opportunity to succeed should the couple not be thrilled?
“We can’t change the opinions of people but to be honest we don’t care what people think of us,” she says.
“We know we’re happy and doing what we want. We want good careers and good lives so eventually Georgie grows up and has us as role models for what she wants.”
When the dust finally settled, Treloar was traded to the Western Bulldogs and it was “like a massive weight lifted”, says Ravaillion.
“We were so happy it was over and we didn’t have to think about it anymore, he could move on and start fresh,” she says.
“If anything, I hope we can set a good example that you can do this, you can chase your goals and you can have a career if you’re a mum, you can be in different states and make it work.
“We were always like, ‘this is what we’re doing, who cares what anyone else thinks’.”
It’s a healthy attitude and one that only allowed for Ravaillion to grow stronger over what was a tumultuous 12 months.
Since Georgie, now 11 months, was born in March last year, Ravaillion has been tested in ways she could have never predicted.
But as she looks down at her little girl crawling around her feet in her apartment in Hawthorne in Brisbane’s inner-city, she lights up with the smile of a mother who knows it’s all been worth it.
Over the past year Ravaillion has given birth in the peak of a global pandemic, lived through Melbourne’s months-long hard lockdown, isolated for four months in the AFL hub in Queensland while raising a newborn, endured national controversy, moved interstate and is now navigating how to co-parent long distance with Treloar, all while juggling returning to netball and caring for her daughter.
But there was never any question Ravaillion wouldn’t cope, she’s used to pushing herself to the limit and, she says, that’s when she thrives.
“I love motherhood, I want to have another baby as soon as I can,” she laughs, “obviously I’ll wait a bit but I’d love four kids.”
She picks up Georgie, the baby who made her a mother, and the little girl who was brought into the world at one of the most chaotic times in recent history.
“We went into lockdown (in Melbourne) the day I was in labour (with Georgie) on March 23,” muses Ravaillion, “I was like, ‘OK … do I panic?’”
But, as you’ll come to learn about Ravaillion, she’s built tough and nothing, not even a pandemic, was going to unnerve her.
“Adam and I were just in our bubble, it was a blessing in disguise because Adam got to be home for six whole weeks while we had a newborn,” she says.
“We thought it was amazing, we started to work out parent life and what works for us and Georgie.”
And just when they did, more hurdles appeared with news all Victorian AFL clubs would move to Queensland to form a hub allowing the AFL season to continue during COVID-19 under strict regulations.
It meant Ravaillion spent more than 100 days isolated in Queensland with a then three-month-old Georgie.
But Ravaillion was only willing to look at it as an opportunity.
Her twin sister, Jess, was approved to travel with her for support and Ravaillion used the time to get her body back to peak fitness.
She wanted to be ready to return to netball in case any offers came in and they did.
“I was approached by a couple of clubs but I was just waiting for the Firebirds,” she says.
“When I played up here the memories of netball were awesome and I loved every minute of it.”
She wanted that excitement back, a feeling she’d gradually lost during the three seasons she played with the Collingwood Magpies after she left the Firebirds in 2016.
Ravaillion made her professional debut with the Firebirds in 2013 and helped the club win back-back championships in 2015 and 2016 before leaving to play for the Collingwood Magpies.
“I needed to feel uncomfortable again because I was so comfortable there (with the Firebirds). and that’s the only way you’re going to grow, if you push yourself and be brave,” she says.
Despite her personal life thriving in Melbourne, having met Treloar in her first year with the club in 2017 (he trained at the same facility), Ravaillion was struggling on the court.
“I wasn’t in a happy place, I wasn’t really loving the game,” she says.
“I was run down, not enjoying playing and I wasn’t playing very well, or at the capacity I’d like to.
“If anything, getting pregnant was a blessing in disguise because it made me have the year off.”
The way she describes the past year, Ravaillion has been reinvigorated by both motherhood and the chance to rejoin the Firebirds. In a way, she says, coming back to the team is like a homecoming.
Ravaillion moved to Brisbane earlier this year with Georgie and her mum, Sina, who moved from New South Wales to live with them and help her daughter with baby duties while she trains.
Ravaillion is bursting to play alongside some of her best mates like Gretel Bueta, Romelda Aiken and Gabi Simpson. She admits training looks a little different than it once did.
“It’s even more special because Grets just had baby Bobby as well and Clare (Ferguson, assistant coach) has had babies as well.
“There are so many children and all the girls are loving it … we do (have a crèche) in the corner (at training) and a play area (for the children).”
Bueta has remained close with Ravaillion since they first played in the Firebirds together in 2013 and knows what she is capable of on and off the court.
And as she relfects on her teammate’s past year, Bueta says Ravaillion will be a force to be reckoned with.
“She’s one of the strongest people I know both mentally and physically, she took it (the controversy) in her stride and her and Adam are an incredible couple,” she says.
“I think she’s set an example for Georgie and is chasing after her dreams, I think we’re very lucky to have her up here in Queensland.
“I can’t wait to be out there with her and do it all together again, we’re definitely going to be a competitive team this season.”
Ravaillion is not the same person, or player, that she was and, she says, she’s better for it.
“It’s not about me making an Australian team or ticking goals off for myself, it’s more hopefully winning for this club and giving back to the club and finishing a game and walking off and saying to G, “how cool was it that you got to watch mummy play?”
“It’s a whole different perspective … I have familiar faces that I love seeing and it’s fun. You want to play for each other and they’re so supportive.”
It’s made for a smooth transition into Queensland life and as she settles in, Ravaillion says she’s still figuring out long distance with Treloar.
“We’re just going day by day, we’re so grateful for technology these days and we FaceTime all the time so we can see each other every day,” she says.
The plan is to travel back and forth when there’s an opening in schedules but after the short three-month Suncorp Super Netball season is finished, Ravaillion plans to return to Melbourne for the remainder of the year and Treloar’s AFL season.
“We’re both so busy this time of year … our minds are pretty distracted but you do miss each other,” she says.
“Each morning I put Georgie on to Ads (on FaceTime), it’s so cute.
“We will play it week by week and map it out each week and see what we can do.”
The young couple is committed to making it work and are each other’s biggest supporters. Ravaillion knows it’s only for a few months and in their lifetime together, it’s more than doable. They know now is the prime time to live out their sporting dreams while they’re young and healthy.
It’s a dream that’s been with Ravaillion ever since she started playing netball with her sister at the age of seven, growing up in Strathfied in Sydney’s western suburbs.
She quickly rose through the ranks, making state teams in her teens before spending a year training at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
In 2013, she was scouted by then Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke and since then has become one of the game’s best players.
Ravaillion became the first player to make her international debut before playing a national game, she won back-to-back championships with the Firebirds, a Commonwealth Games gold in 2014 and a Netball World Cup in 2015.
She returns to the club under a new head coach, Megan Anderson, a former Australian Diamond and assistant coach with the national team, stepping into the role after Jencke held the position for 11 years. But it’s fresh start for the club and for Ravaillion.
“I love it here,” she says.
“It feels so much more like home and I feel like it’s because I’ve been here before, I know where I am, I know all the coffee shops and the team is amazing, it’s so different.
“I came into the team as a young pup and was nurtured by Laura Geitz and Clare (Ferguson) and now it’s gone full circle and I’m in their position as an older player.
“It’s so nice to be back.”