Wattisham Blades Netball Club was set up in May of 2012 by Chloe Anderson.

Chloe had played Netball most of her life before being posted with her husband to Wattisham Station. When she arrived she quickly realised there was no netball team either at the station or nearby, so she decided to start one herself. So, with Chloe as Chairperson and Fiona Turner as Club Secretary the club was set up. Leaflets were put through doors of all the military houses to drum up some players as well as the club being advertised on Facebook. All of the essential admin was arranged and put into place and a meeting was arranged with Rachel Keeley, our England/Suffolk Netball Development Officer to set up our “Back 2 Netball” sessions.

The first night only 5 ladies turned up! And the gym had forgotten about our booking so the whole building was locked. We did what any group of ladies at a loose end and child free for the evening would do…..we went to the pub. (We forgave the gym after they kindly bought us some netball posts!). Out of the 5 ladies who attended that first meeting, only Chloe and Fiona are left at the club due to the others being posted away. However, despite our losses, the club has grown and we now have a wide range of members including Army and RAF partners and personnel, and civilian employees. Recently we have been given the all clear to invite other civilians into the club and we are pleased to say that some of the local community have already joined us.

Over the last year the club has gone from strength to strength.  As many of our members had not played netball since school (which is a good few years ago for some of us) we were able to obtain a “Back 2 Netball” coach from England Netball Association to come and coach us for ten weeks.  This proved to be a fantastic opportunity and we all learnt a huge amount from these sessions. After building our skills and confidence we decided to join the West Suffolk Netball League. Ok so we might be in division 5 at the very bottom, but from here we can only go up!

So far we have played 3 league games. We got off to reasonable start with a loss by just one point in our first game. Our second game, well that certainly kept us on our toes as we lost 18-61 and two players sustained nasty injuries on court. Our third game, we are pleased to say we won 38-27, go Blades! We have several more games to play yet but it will be interesting to see where we finally place in the division of our first ever league.

As well as the league games we also get the opportunity to play friendly games against other local teams which is great for building our experience and just having a bit of fun.  We also had a great time playing the AAC basketball team who totally thrashed us, but we were of course very lenient with them on the netball rules with it being their first time at playing. We shall be toughening up on those in our next friendly against them! We have also taken part in a local “Back to Netball” Tournament at Thurston in which we placed third.

Although we have joined the league and play every Thursday, those who don’t play continue to attend training in the gym on camp, thanks to Fiona, who selflessly gives up her opportunity to play in order to lead the training sessions as one of the assistant coaches. This means that new members can join the club without being thrown into the pressure of a game. Fiona is booked on an upcoming coaching course in September and, along with another club member, Anna Seeto, has passed her beginner umpiring course and they are both are working towards their level C umpiring award. Well done ladies! Without such qualifications, the club could not survive and we are truly grateful to these ladies for giving up many hours for the good of our club.

We are lucky enough to have an official team kit with our name and the Wattisham Blades Netball Club logo on, all supplied by our sponsors Lady on the Green. Along with our kit manager Clare Cherrie they are currently working on some new netball dresses for us, which we can’t wait to see in the flesh. Not only do we look like pro’s (we might as well get some practise in!) it also means we look good in our photos. We have an upcoming photo shoot planned with Avalon Images and can’t wait to see the results and have some professional pictures of the team.

To celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary of the club being established, our social committee member Angela Collins, along with club secretary Fiona, have been hard at work organising our first ever awards evening. A fun evening is expected to be had by all as we enjoy our buffet, drinks, disco (provided by Disco B.E.C.K.S.) and the all important awards themselves. Our other social committee members, Caroline Larkham and Natalie Poultney have also been busy. Caroline organised our stall to raise funds at the Station Triathlon as well as helping Natalie who is organising a netball tournament to be held on camp. Our stall at the triathlon proved to be very popular with the kids with our ‘guess the name of the teddy bear’ and ‘shoot as many hoops as you can in a minute’ events. All of our committee members work hard in their various roles to keep the club running, all overseen by Fiona who is always on hand to help or advise.

Joining the club has been a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. The initial idea of creating the club to bring people together, have fun and improve our fitness has certainly paid off. We have a huge range of ladies on the team from all backgrounds and cultures and of varying ages. The fitness bug has hit so hard some of us have even taken up other training so we can play better on court! Some great friendships have been formed and these friendships have grown to outside the netball court as well as on it. We always welcome new members to the team whether they are skilled, complete beginners or somewhere in between.  The one thing we do not want is for people to feel intimidated at the thought of joining an already established team. We have a wide range of skill and fitness levels playing amongst us. We totally understand that life often gets in the way when it comes to attending on a regular basis and the great thing about the team is it doesn’t matter if you cannot attend every session or game.  We are all in the same situation and understand that people cannot always commit to attending every week, 52 weeks of the year.  Sometimes we don’t see a member for a week, or a month, or even several months if their partner is deployed and they have childcare to contend with but they are always welcomed back eagerly and most importantly, always eager to return. I do not however envy the job of our other assistant coach, Leanne Winn, who has to organise our teams each week. Ensuring everyone gets a fair turn at league games whilst also taking into account all the weeks each individual can or can’t attend. We do like to keep her on her toes with that job!

All in all the last year has proven to be a great success for Wattisham Blades Netball Club and we hope to continue this growth by welcoming more members and developing our skills. If anyone wishes to join us we can be found in the gym hall every Thursday from 7-8.30pm so please do come along.

By the time this is published we will have said goodbye to a much loved team member, Clare Cherrie. We hope she enjoys the sunshine in Cyprus and takes up on our hints to invite us over for a netball game sometime!

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