Interview with Liz Ellis, Australian Netball Champion

Liz Ellis, netball legend, Australian captain 2004-2007

sports journalist, Commonwealth Games commentator

By Megan James,

Date:  Thursday 19 August 2010

Liz Ellis is excited about and what we want to achieve online. What are her views on how women’s sport is treated in Australia? First up, I asked her why she thinks it is so hard for women’s sport to get the profile it deserves in the media?

Liz: I think there are a couple of reasons: First, it’s a generational thing. There are a lot more blokes writing about sport and they write about what they are interested in. As more female journalists come through they may write about things they enjoy in women’s sport. Although, in saying that, there are male journalists who do enjoy and write well about women’s sport.

Women’s sports coverage is often compared to the coverage football gets. It took 120 years for AFL, Rugby Union and Rugby League to get their act together, so we are relatively young at it. Compared to when I was playing for Australia, media coverage of netball is phenomenal now.

Megan: How do we get women’s sport closer to the top of the news?

Liz: Educate the media, which will take time! Football embraces and engenders controversy. Women’s sport doesn’t want to do that.  Media managers really want to portray women’s sport in the best possible light, which is noble, but it would be good to see more of the personalities behind the sport. We are too caught up in presenting a good face. We need to have opinions, even if we disagree with officials, club administrators, other players.

Some of the female athletes got their gear off a few years ago, they got a lot of publicity. It was shock value, but it was short lived. We need to do better than that, we need to show the personalities in women’s sport. It’s the personalities that grab the news for the men.

Megan: Is there is a perception that women’s sport is boring?

Liz: Yes, there is. But it is just a perception. Because as soon as people come along to netball they say, “how long has this been around?” We get crowds of 4000 people at the State Sport Centre on a cold Monday night in the middle of winter, so how can it be boring? If you’ve never been out there, get along and you’ll understand the excitement.

Megan: The number of women and girls playing team sports appears to be dwindling, why is that?

Liz: Life is busy, and sport is hard to fit in. Occasionally, I think that in the family unit sometimes, the priorities for the girl’s sports program is lower than for the boys. Everyone’s busy, but girl’s sport is important, too.

Megan: You’ve had a fantastic career in netball, tell us some of the highlights.

Liz: Winning the 1999 world championships. We were 6 down at 3/4 time, then scored the winning goal in the final seconds. There was our gold medal 2002 Manchester Games win in double extra time. And winning the first championship with the Swifts is right up there, too. The world championships win in 2007 was also very special as I was coming back from a knee reconstruction and it was on the same court, same place, same team that I did my knee.

Megan: How are our girls going to go at the Commonwealth Games?

Liz: It’s going to be very tough. They will be hell bent on winning gold, and I am confident they can do it, but it won’t be easy. The Kiwis are the big danger as always, but Jamaica will be hard to beat as they have some key players coming back from injury. Watch out for England as well they are in Australia’s pool.

Megan: How does the Commonwealth Games compare to other tournaments?

Liz: The Commonwealth Games is brilliant. We don’t get to play in the Olympics, so this is where netball gets to be part of a wider Australian team of both men and women up against a bunch of great sporting countries. It is such a unique event and a wonderful experience.

Megan: Is there a new Aussie player we should be watching out for in India?

Liz: Just one of our really good new players is Laura Geitz, GK from Queensland. Watch out for the old girls, too! Sharelle McMahon and Catherine Cox are in blistering form.

Megan: When you’re not writing and commentating on sport, what do you do in your downtime?

Liz: I go to the gym and do maintenance on my injuries – I also do pilates. Got to keep the body going somehow!

Check out Liz’s charity, ‘Goals 4 Girls’

The Goals 4 Girls Foundation provides money for educational scholarships to cover school costs for girls who display leadership, academic and sporting aptitude, and whose family situation would otherwise preclude them from pursuing their educational goals.

Read more here