Turning netball dreams into diamonds with Laura Geitz
With an estimated one million players nationwide, netball is the most popular sport in Australia and making it to the Commonwealth Games is a feat most only dream of achieving.
The Australian GC2018 Netball team has been announced, with the 12 athletes to don the green and gold at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre and Coomera Indoor Sports Centre revealed.
The team includes GC2018 Ambassador Laura Geitz, marking her return to the Diamonds after welcoming son Barney in February 2017.
According to Geitz, there’s one thing the best players have in common: resilience.
“I think when you look at a lot of the girls that have played netball for Australia, they’ve all overcome some pretty challenging times in their careers or early on in their lives,” Geitz told GC2018.com.
“A lot of the girls copped flack at school for being tall and standing out, and probably their self-confidence in a way was dinted at the beginning.
"I think it’s those challenges sometimes, or even those failures, plant the seed of motivation that make these girls realise that they want to do something really purposeful and they want to be part of something that’s incredible.”
With over 50 test caps to her name, the former Australian captain is one of the greats, and she’s played alongside some incredible players on the world stage.
It makes her uniquely qualified to comment on what it takes to be a champion of the sport that has shaped the childhood sporting careers of so many across the world.
“I think that if you profiled all the girls that have ever gone to a Commonwealth Games, they all mention or at some point in time have missed out on a team or have experienced a real challenge and I think that’s exceptionally important to experience in your career moving forward,” she said.
The 30-year-old defender knows a thing or two about resilience. Geitz has experienced incredible highs throughout her career, including back-to-back national championships, two World Cup wins and a Commonwealth Games gold, but she’s also felt the lows.
During her first Commonwealth Games campaign in Delhi in 2010, the team lost to New Zealand in double extra-time; the longest ever official game of netball recorded at 84 minutes.
Four years later, Geitz captained the Australian team to redemption, getting the better of New Zealand in the gold medal match and breaking the nation’s 12-year drought at the Commonwealth Games.
Geitz has learned some big lessons throughout her 10-year international career, one being that success and failure are all matters of perspective.
It’s the single piece of advice she wishes she could go back and tell her younger self, when she was climbing her way through the ranks in Queensland country town, Allora.
“The one thing I have learned is the challenges and the failures are actually just as important as the good times and the victories,” she said.
“It’s about turning your mindset into, this has happened for a reason, I might not know why at this present time, but further down the track when you reflect you realise it has happened for a reason and there’s a very valuable lesson that’s come out of it.
“I think that’s probably the one thing that I always say to young girls who are disappointed about missing out. It’s part of the journey and it’s about looking at it as though it’s a good thing and I’m going to learn from this.”
As well as resilience, the importance of discipline and sacrifice was instilled in Geitz from a young age, and she knows that the sport isn’t a solo endeavour.
Geitz is frank about the sacrifices involved, not just for the athlete, but family as well. Ultimately, the life of an athlete demands a degree of selfishness.
“I think an athlete has to realise that you are a selfish person in a way because it’s all about you and what you’ve set out to achieve and realistically you will do anything that you have to do to get to where you want to be,” she said.
“You have to have a very understanding family, you have to have a very supportive family and you have to realise that there’s going to be milestone events and special times that you’re not able to be a part of because you might be away playing overseas or you might have a game that weekend or you might just have training.
“Discipline and sacrifice I think are probably one part of the game that’s embedded into you from the very, very early days and you just accept it.”
Geitz’s campaign for a third Games, and possibly a second gold medal, came with the extra support of her new number one fan, Barney.
Her return to the sport also brought new challenges.
“Becoming a mum is an amazing thing to experience. It’s by far the best experience that I’ve ever had in my life, but returning to your sport as you’ve known it - without a child- and then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot more organisation,” Geitz said.
“The sleep and the recovery which is drummed into you as an athlete from early days about the fundamentals of performing to the best of your ability and all of a sudden you’ve got a little child to look after and all those things go out the window so it’s a balance, it’s about relying on so much support of your family and I’m very lucky that I’ve got that.
“There’s some wonderful days and there’s some really hard days but you know at the end of the day it was my decision to come back and play the game and I like challenging myself and that’s exactly what it is.
“I feel very lucky to have experienced and been a part of the things that I have been with netball. I think it is really important to continue to challenge yourself and even though Barney’s far too young to understand what I’m doing I hope he looks back on my career and is proud of me for giving it a crack post-having him.”
Six athletes are set to contest their first Games, with five members of the 2014 gold medal-winning team named to defend their title.
Veteran shooter Susan Pettitt has also been named, after missing selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Netball World Cup teams. Pettitt holds two Commonwealth Games silver medals from 2006 and 2010.
The Australian GC2018 Netball team:
Caitlin Bassett (captain) – 76 test caps (Western Australia, Sunshine Coast Lightning)
April Brandley – 21 caps (New South Wales, Collingwood Magpies)
Courtney Bruce -10 caps (Western Australia, West Coast Fever)
Laura Geitz – 64 caps (Queensland, Queensland Firebirds)
Susan Pettitt – 64 caps (New South Wales, GIANTS Netball)
Kim Ravaillion – 50 caps (New South Wales, Collingwood Magpies)
Madi Robinson – 54 caps (Victoria, Collingwood Magpies)
Gabi Simpson (vice captain) – 25 caps (New South Wales, Queensland Firebirds)
Caitlin Thwaites – 34 caps (Victoria, Collingwood Magpies)
Liz Watson – 15 caps (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Jo Weston - 10 caps (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Stephanie Wood – 8 caps (Queensland, Sunshine Coast Lightning)