For a lot of girls in Australia, netball is a rite of passage. When I was in high school and worried about making new friends, it was comforting to look around and realise that I recognised plenty of faces from playing heated netball games on freezing Saturday mornings.
But what feels like a fun way to make friends as a kid can impact us more than we realise. Team sports are, of course, good for our physical health, but they also play a part in informing who we are socially. These days, we are quick to pull out astrology apps and compare star signs to understand each other better. But from how we handle failure to our confrontation style, sports show who we really are, warts and all.
Strike up a conversation with any netball player and I guarantee you they have a hot take on the kinds of personalities that flocked to the game. Better yet, they can break it down by position. My thoughts on each personality are so set in stone that I did the rounds in the office to find other former players who would be willing to throw in their thoughts to corroborate mine. Even though some of us work in completely different departments or haven't picked up a netball in ten years, we're all still on the same page about the kind of person that played each position. Here's our take.
We’re starting with Goal Keeper because this was my main gig. Goal Keepers often got shafted into this position not for their skill, but because they were tall enough to catch a rebound. You had to stay in the goal circle where all the action happens, but never really got any of the glory.
Not to toot my own horn, but Goal Keepers are solid team players. Given that they don’t care for running nor have an ego, they aren't too fussed by the competition itself. Honestly, they probably just liked having a chat with the other team’s Goal Shooter when all the action was up at the other end (guilty).
GD was a good time. You needed to be a bit aggressive and know how to block — without breaking the rules — to stop the other team from scoring. Again, this position doesn't get as much kudos as the shooters, but you get the job done.
Goal Defence players are loyal and reliable friends. If anyone insults their inner circle, you better watch out. They are one Assertive Annie who never backs down from a debate, is extremely competitive and enjoys getting down on the dance floor.
"I have anger issues which I channel into sport, so the idea of pushing and shoving a shooter was absolute bliss to me as a child," says Ally, 29, a GD to her core. "Considering it was a no-contact sport, it was perplexing having mums on the sideline cheer me on for sneakily making it very much a contact sport. It also felt good knowing that I was actively preventing the popular girls (GA and GS) from scoring goals and stealing the limelight. Yeah, I had problems."
On the flip-side of Goal Keepers, Goal Shooters were tall kids who did have skills. They scored a lot of points and praise, which is why I always wanted to be one.
But while they get a lot of attention, they also have heaps of pressure on their shoulders to win the game for the team. Goal Shooters love the spotlight but know how to stay in their lane, do their thing and remain calm under pressure.
"Goal Shooters were always the most laidback, funniest players on our team," says Emma, 25, a former Goal Attack. "Maybe it was because they weren't having to run up and down the entire court and constantly dodge elbows and death stares from the opposing team, but they were chill."
Goal Attacks had to juggle a lot at once. One second they would be huffing and puffing after running up the court and the next, they had to compose themselves to shoot with extreme precision. It's masterful.
Goal Attacks think they’re a step above the rest, but also, they probably were with that tough job. They're super competitive and tough as nails — the friend you call when you're going through a tough time and need some no-nonsense advice.
Centres are the clearest personality in my mind: the fittest one on the team who called all the shots and had a lot of clout. They were popular and loved a ribbon in their ponytail.
Centre players are organised, spreadsheet-loving overachievers who are widely adored. Bree, 27, and Mina, 28, are both former Centres that knew exactly what to bring to the table.
"Centre is built for outspoken, energetic, and not-tall-enough-for-the-goal-circle people," says Mina. "Have you ever seen an introvert play centre? Neither."
In Bree's words, she was "competitive as fuck", and so thrived in the position. "You could also say I enjoy organising people and running the show."
No one ever wanted these bibs from the basket, the poor Wing Attacks. These players garnered the least acclaim but had to work the hardest. They ran up and back, doing the grunt work to get the ball down the court for the entire game and could never score or step foot in the goal circle.
Wing Attacks are our unsung heroes. They're strategic, forward-thinking people who never get enough credit. They're emotionally intelligent, dependable and total sweethearts. Justice for Wing Attacks!
Wing Defence gets even less action than their attacking counterpart. There’s a speedier ‘Fast5’ version of netball that literally cuts the WA and WD positions out, because the game can function without them. Ouch.
Wing Defence people are just happy to be here. They’re not big sports fans, but enjoy a jog and being part of a team. Shantelle, 26, a previous player who alternated between WA and WD, can back me up here.
"I thought it matched my personality perfectly, because no one ever put their hands up to play those positions, and being the non-confrontational people-pleaser I was, I just agreed to it," she says.
Feeling nostalgic about your netball days now? Find out how to catch a game and cheer on those deserving WA and WD players, here.
After all, no matter what bib you wore, there was one mantra that united every player's personality and was thrown around on the court more times than the ball itself:
"Here if you need."