Former International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) President Deirdre Hyland AM predicts that Sydney hosting the 2015 World Netball Championship will usher the sport into a new unprecedented era.
Hyland, co-author of Netball State of Play, a complete 50-year history of IFNA, believes that Sydney can again have an impact on netball similar to when the city last hosted the quadrennial event 20 years ago.
“I think it will be a great event, we’ve got administrators with a lot of expertise and New South Wales has a huge body of volunteer support which I’m sure will come forward like it did last time,” Hyland told GameOn.
“I think (2015) will take the sport another step forward but I’m hoping there will be closer matches.”
The Australian Sport Hall of Fame inductee was President of the 1991 World Netball Championship Organising Committee, an event which has been credited with developing the sport as we know it today.
The 1991 edition was the first played indoors, which international netball has become accustomed to today, it significantly raised the profile of the sport on the domestic front and is still considered one of Australia’s greatest sporting triumphs, defeating New Zealand in the final.
“1991 was a turning point for the sport from the point of view that men got interested in the sport as spectators, the Prime Minister at the time sat beside me and every time we got the ball he was jumping up and down shouting ‘shoot the bloody thing’,” said the inaugural President of the All Australian Netball Association, which would later be known as Netball Australia.
“The thing was that it was on television in the pubs because it was such a close and exciting game, I think that created a huge amount of interest that has carried on through the years.
“It was certainly a big impetus to (netball as we know it today); if not the birth, it played a large part.”
Hyland, along with best friend Dot McHugh OAM spent the past four years reading, researching and penning the history of the international federation to celebrate the governing body’s Golden Jubilee in 2011.
The book, launched at the 2011 World Netball Championships in Singapore, was a labour of love for the two icons of the sport, both of whom have contributed significantly to the sport in administrative capacities dating back to 1949.
“It was our way of saying thank you to the international body for a lot of good memories that we’ve got and experiences we’ve had through our involvement,” Hyland said.
“The proceeds of the book aren’t coming to us, all the money is going to the international body to help netball in developing countries.
“My involvement was accidental in the first place but it’s been a great part of my life and Dot’s too. We don’t want to be icons but we’re happy to be part of it all.
“Dot got the idea (of writing the book) in 2007, she sent out some letters to a number of people who had been involved in other countries asking if they would like to contribute or support us in finding resources.
“We were very fortunate because we had the actual achives of the Federation here in our garage, so the book is based on all the authentic minutes from the word go.
“I started writing in 2009 and finished just before we left to go to Singapore in 2011.”
After seeing the sport grow since her first official involvement with the Queensland Netball Association began in 1963, Hyland is impressed with the progress of the sport but believes the social element has been sacrificed for on court success.
“The fact that it’s become semi-professional is one of the big steps forward it’s taken, the dedication is probably no greater than it was in the early days but the technology that is there to assist the players now, they’ve got every opportunity now to reach their full potential,” she said.
“I think they may have lost a little bit in the contact with each other because of the professional aspect of trying to win has over ridden some of the social elements where teams used to get together and interact that they don’t tend to do today.”
While the sport has grown enormously in IFNA’s first 50 years, the inaugural board member of the Australian Institute of Sport has cast her eyes to the next 50 years with plenty of work still to be done.
“I would like to see the standard become closer, all the countries instead of two, three or four at the top,” Hyland said.
“If we can get the USA to expand its involvement it would lift the standard because they would have the facilities and money to make sure that they produce quality players but it also means developing the countries that are already involved.”
“China is another one which would be an interesting one to see come into the fold.
“It’s a case of having the money to do it though, that’s the biggest thing.
“We’ve very lucky with the amount of sponsorship we get now but looking into the future you would be looking at sources that would enable you to go into those countries from a more structured and long term basis to help them onto their feet.
“The reason we put the third section (in the book) was the look at a number of people’s visions of what will happen into the future and I think if you read those there’s still a hope that the sport will get into the Olympics one day.”
Netball State of Play is a must read for any netball fan as it looks at the history, challenges and future of the international federation with contributions from some of the sport’s most influential figures and thought provoking exercises.
The book will be available through Netball Australia’s online store.