The Birdies Have Landed

Girls and women in Queensland can achieve anything.

That was the resounding message last weekend when Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk officially opened the Queensland State Netball Centre at Nathan.

Finally, the arrival of netball as a ‘big dog’ in Queensland sports real estate.

Even with a 300,000 strong participant base in Queensland, netball continues to fight for real estate in news-papers, bulletins and on broadcast.

With today’s opening of the $44m dedicated facility, the netball community has put a huge stake in the ground, claiming territory not just as the 15,000 sq. meter physical home in Nathan, but symbolically in the hearts of Queenslanders from the Torres Straight to the Tweed.

On Sunday, thousands took their first look inside. The vast interior made with 700 tonnes of structural steel surrounds seven community courts, neatly framing the impressive sunken show court.

Netball lines the only markings on the wooden floors. Here, netball isn’t second fiddle.

We are built on the shoulders of thousands of women around this state and country, most of whom are volunteers. From administrators, coaches, umpires, players, scorers, mums, dads, husbands and brothers.

In front of the 1500 spectators today Netball Queensland CEO Catherine Clark spoke of just how far the women of netball have come.

Speaking from the heart and giving recognition to all those who have contributed to our great game to this point, she gave an impassioned perspective. This stadium isn’t just for the players current and emerging, this stadium is the result of the battles that women experienced right back in the fifties and sixties.

It was back then, when women were kept from the workforce as a result of their gender that the sisterhood of netball truly began. These women built a community that would become synonymous to the belonging and connection that we now see netball forge across the state. It is about fostering wellbeing and achievement. Encouragement and inclusion.

“As a netball community, we are polite, humble. When I started at Netball Queensland, I was told that Netball was the easiest sport to say no to,” she said.

Well, hasn’t that changed. The QSNC will become a dedicated home for the Netball Queensland owned Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds, a team that for twenty years has trained at many and varied locations around Brisbane.

With back to back ANZ Championships in 2015 and 2016, the dream of a permanent home gained momentum, first with a $34m pledge from the Queensland Government, followed by a further $10m from the Federal Government.

For the first time this week, the current crop of Firebirds players – most of which grew up playing in Netball Queensland programs across the state – saw their home for the first time.

Facilities that most codes take for granted, these women can now do court work, gym work, recovery and rehabilitation all within the same building. Up until last week, each of these services weren’t even in the same post code.

Firebirds Captain Gabi Simpson summed it up “So many Queensland women have dedicated their heart and soul to this sport and now, we all have a place to call home.”

In a salute to netballers far and wide, young and old, the first shot, was by Mia Hanifin a NetSetGO participant from Brisbane Netball Association.

The journey the ball took, from the hands of Firebirds Captain Gabi Simpson and Netball Queensland Life Member Di Cocker, to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Kedron Lions U12 player Charlie Robinson, to U17 Queensland player Reilley Batcheldor and U19 Queensland Player Leesa Mi Mi, to Queensland Fusion player Macy Gardner. And finally, into the hands of Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken, who lifted Mia above their shoulders to net the first of many goals to be taken at this historic new location.

From NetSetGO, to clubs, associations, representative teams and the elite Suncorp Super Netball, young girls from around the state can finally see what they can be.

For each person that walks through its doors in 2019 and beyond, QSNC symbolizes what dedication, perseverance and the unwavering belief in a dream can achieve – and netball should make no apologies for that.

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