When a local netball competition folded, two Uniting Church congregations stepped in to ensure that their local community had a fun and affordable competition.
Gooden Reserve Netball Association (GRNA) was formed in 2009 by St Matthew’s Uniting Church Netball Club and Northmead Uniting Church Netball Club, but both clubs have been around for about forty years. The clubs were previously part of a larger competition called the Baptist Women’s Competition which featured a number of other church clubs like Toongabbie Baptist, Castle Hill Baptist and Greystanes.
Unfortunately by 2008, many of the other churches involved were no longer able to sustain their club in the competition. The Baptist Women’s Competition folded. The committees of St Matthew’s and Northmead were not ready to dissolve the clubs completely, and there were a lot of players still keen to play for each club so they decided that they would create their own competition. Gooden Reserve Netball Association was born.
Emily Olley is currently in her fourth season as President of GRNA and Coordinator of St Matthew’s.
“It has been a real vision of mine while on the committee for the competition and the clubs to foster a sense of community and create a space where these women and girls can come and enjoy themselves,” Ms Olley said.
“We offered the community an alternative to the larger competitions already happening in our area. We focused on creating a social competition where women and girls can come and play netball with their friends, which is reinforced by our lack of grading in within divisions (our divisions are solely based on grade at school and we allow friends to play in teams together regardless of ability) which is different from other local competitions.”
“We also offered cheaper registration fees and uniforms, and a game schedule that allowed for flexibility around other commitments on Saturday mornings.”
“I think the netball clubs create a great opportunity for the churches to further their work with the community. We have about 480 people registered this season, many of whom aren’t involved in either church. We are aware that some of our players are involved in other churches and denominations. By being involved with the netball clubs, it has the potential for the churches to engage almost 500 players plus their families outside the typical church setting and Sunday services.”
“The clubs are demonstrating the ‘living church’ as we aim to model the values and attitudes of the Uniting Church within the netball and wider Hills community.”
Ms Olley told Insights that part of her focus has been to continue to strengthen the connection between the churches and the competition. At the beginning of the 2019 season, she invited the ministers from both churches to come and bless the 2019 season on the first day
There are approximately 480 players registered this season between the two clubs. This season has 45 teams registered across five divisions, and 30 kids registered in the Fun Net skills program. Players range from six years old to mid-50s.
“The really lovely thing about our competitions and our clubs is that we have people who have been playing at their club for over 20 years, we have generations of families who have been through our club,” Ms Olley said.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor