By NATALIA HAWK
It was a pair of shoes that started it all.
Laura Geitz grew up in the country, on a 1500-acre cattle and grain farm, two and a half hours out of Brisbane. She didn’t actually have the opportunity to play netball until she turned 13 and went to a new school, where she had the option of choosing between hockey and netball. And she very nearly chose hockey.
But Laura’s sister picked netball, and as a result, got an “amazing” pair of purple sports shoes.
“I thought, I’m going to sign up to netball, because I’ll get a great pair of shoes like that!” Laura tells me when she calls me to discuss all things netball-related. “And that’s kind of how it all came together.”
Now, she’s the captain of the Australian netball team, the Diamonds. How’s that for a fluke?
Netball’s been in the news this week, after the Coalition promised that, if elected, they would provide $3 million towards preparation for the 2015 World Cup, and another $3 million towards completing a state-of-the-art netball complex at Sydney Olympic Park.
It would certainly be a welcome move, considering that netball is one of Australia’s most popular sports. As soon as winter hits, hundreds of thousands of girls pull on bibs with “C” or “WD” or even “GK” on them, and hit the netball courts at their local park. The great majority of Australian women have played the game at some point or another, even if just once or twice.
And to so many young girls aspiring to be professional netballers, 26-year-old Laura may just be their biggest inspiration.
Laura was talent identified at 15 after just two years playing netball for her school. She started out in the Firebabes, a feeder team for the Queensland Firebirds, then made the under 17s side for Queensland. In 2011 – the year which she calls her “most influential to date” – she won ANZ premiership with the Firebirds that year, and went on to win the World Championships in Singapore. Laura was then awarded the Liz Ellis Diamond, which is essentially the netball equivalent to the Brownlow medal. “2011 for me was basically like a fairytale,” she says. “In a way, you couldn’t have got any better.”
When I ask her how she managed to become captain of the Australian netball team, she just laughs. “I ask myself the same question, to be honest!” she says. “It’s been an amazing honour to be named captain, I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”
She’d been captain for the Firebirds for one year, so when the opportunity came to captain the Diamonds came up, Laura put her name forward. “I was lucky enough to have the support of the playing group and all the girls in the team, which meant a lot,” she tells me. “It’s going to be a massive challenge for me, and a big learning curve, that’s for sure!”