Those who doubt the inherent campness of netball need to cast their minds back to 2002, when the round-ball game was the surprise hit of the Sydney Gay Games. Every year more than 1.3 Australians try to control their stepping and contact and pull on a bib. And far from being a soft girly game, serious netball is hardcore, complete with tough girls, elbows in eye sockets and serious fast action.
So why is it such an unnoticed sport? In The Last Great Amateurs, filmmakers Lisa and Richard Keddie try to work out exactly that, looking at what makes footy players so valuable and top-grade netballers so unmarketable. Why, their documentary asks, are more of our netballers not able to go pro?
They were inspired to make an hour-long doco after attending a National Netball League match, in which first-class athletes -“ juggling elite sport with day jobs -“ fought a skilled and electric battle. After hanging out with Phoenix co-captain Liz Boniello, and discovering she was paid a $2,050 subsidy each year to train and play six times a week, they wondered why anyone would give up social, family and career time for the game.
The documentary looks at similar strain faced by netball’s elite coaches and administrators, who run the sport in an almost voluntary capacity. The constant question is how to sell a sport that is so media-ignored, despite its huge participation rate and dedicated fans.
In a world where our best-known athletes’ behaviour ranges from bad to criminal, it’s amazing to see some sportswomen giving their lives to a sport for pure glory of competition, friendship and fun.
Making it more interesting, Magda Szubanski revisits her Kath and Kim character, netball-tragic Sharon Strezlecki, to offer her own insights on a top year in the life of a top team.
Occasionally funny (Szubanski can’t help it, really) and very engaging, The Last Great Amateurs is a quality documentary for netball fans and everyone else.
For those who are unaware of the outcome of the 2003 netball season, the journey to the grand final and the desire of the team to give Boniello a victorious send-off is exciting and tense, and more sensitive viewers might even squeeze out a few tears.
The Last Great Amateurs screens at 8:30pm on Wednesday 17 November on ABC TV.