Top Of Her Game: Inside the world of Tilly McDonell's professional netball career.

Thanks to our brand partner, HCF

In the world of netball, Tilly McDonell's name shines bright for a number of reasons. 

At 22 years old, she's a force to be reckoned with on the court, an intelligent and determined woman off the court – with a funny, vibrant personality to match. 

Being taller and stronger than many girls her age, she often stood out growing up. It was on the netball court that she found safety, comfort, and inclusivity.

"I fell in love with netball because I felt like I had found my place," she shares. "It made me feel like I was home."

Netball became an exhilarating experience, where friendships flourished, and a sense of belonging helped Tilly discover who she truly was. She fondly recalls, "Meeting up with your friends on a Saturday morning and playing this sport, you know, it was just the best thing ever."

Netball played a pivotal role in shaping Tilly's self-confidence. Despite being painfully shy during her younger years, netball provided her with the tools to break free from her shell.

Watch: Get to know Tilly McDonell from her teammates. Post continues after video.

Video via GIANTSNetballTV.

"Netball really gave me confidence," she affirms. It empowered her to believe in her abilities, both sporting and otherwise, helping her grow as a team player and an individual.

Tilly credits netball, and working closely with organisations like HCF, a proud partner of Netball Australia, for allowing her the opportunity to help others lead healthier lives, both on and off the court. She passionately states, "Netball has given me so much, and I want to empower other girls to feel the same way."

Tilly still holds treasured memories from her junior days playing netty. Recalling an under 11s grand final match, she recounts the excitement and nerves of playing for Riverstone against a formidable opponent. The bond she formed with her teammates and their resounding victory etched a lasting impression. Tilly vividly remembers, "It felt really professional. I remember seeing my family and friends in the stands, all wearing our team colours and cheering us on. It was such a special moment, and it solidified my passion for the game."

Tilly's journey to professional netball was not without its challenges. As she progressed through various age groups and representative teams, Tilly encountered setbacks.


She recalls missing out on key selections during her teenage years, which initially shattered her dreams of pursuing netball as a career. However, these obstacles fuelled her determination. Tilly redirected her focus, pouring effort into her studies and exploring other sports.

This pivotal shift allowed her to develop resilience and discover a well-rounded approach to life. Reflecting on this transformative phase, Tilly shares, "Those setbacks made me realise that there's more to life than just netball. I focused on my education and other sports, which ultimately shaped me into the person I am today."


The turning point came during Tilly's final year of school, when everything began to fall into place. A surprise phone call from Julie Fitzgerald, a legendary coaching figure in netball, changed the course of Tilly's life. Julie offered her a contract with the GIANTS, leaving Tilly in disbelief.

With a mix of excitement and innocence, Tilly recalls, "I was in biology class in high school and Jules called and I was just shocked, it was such a surreal moment." From that point on, Tilly's netball career skyrocketed, and she embraced the opportunities that awaited her with open arms.

Tilly McDonell is not one to shy away from taking on new challenges and expanding her horizons. While excelling on the netball court, she has also been studying Law full time for the past five years, Tilly reflects on her journey, saying, "It's been a ride, but it's been really good. I love being multifaceted and having different things going on in my life." 

As a female athlete, Tilly understands the importance of having other pursuits and a solid foundation beyond sport. Influenced by her mum's wisdom, Tilly shares, "I think particularly being a female athlete, it's really important that you have other things and something to fall back on, you know, after sport."

Listen to Here If You Need, Mamamia's weekly sports podcast with Cate Campbell and Hayley Willis. Post continues below.


Studying full time has given Tilly a fresh perspective and grounded her in the realisation that there is more to life than just a game. It’s provided her with a different lens through which to view her achievements and setbacks.

Tilly shared, "It puts things into perspective for sure. At the end of the day, it's not the end of the world to play a catch and throw game." This broader outlook keeps her grounded, reminding her of the bigger picture and allowing her to approach her sporting endeavours with a healthy balance of passion and perspective. 

Tilly McDonell's journey from a shy girl finding her place in netball to becoming a prominent figure and advocate for women's sports is an inspiration to all. Through her personal experiences, Tilly has touched the lives of countless individuals, encouraging them to embrace their passions, overcome obstacles, and champion equality. 

Her story serves as a reminder that sport can be a catalyst for personal growth, empowerment, and a sense of belonging. Tilly McDonell is not just a rising star; she is a beacon of hope and change, igniting the flame of possibility within the hearts of athletes and young girls alike.

HCF believes in empowering women to take control of their own health and wellbeing. Explore their women’s health library with guides, articles, podcasts and videos – everything you need for a strong body and mind.

Feature Image: Instagram/@matilda_mcdonell

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