Let's get physical
When she was 19 weeks pregnant, Sharelle McMahon (r) decided she was too far along, in her own judgment, to play competition netball.
Eleven years ago Trudy Gardner took Netball Australia to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission where she won the right to play for the Adelaide Ravens in the national league while pregnant.
How times have changed.
Now, I cannot imagine any woman wanting to play netball at ANZ Championship level while pregnant. The game has become too rough, or "physical", as many players describe it.
But because of Gardner, they still have the right to make that choice.
The competition is a different one now, with the addition of the New Zealand clubs.
At the start of this season the Australian captain Sharelle McMahon decided she would not play for Melbourne Vixens while she was pregnant. She did train "full-on" until she was 12 weeks, but by the start of the season she was 19 weeks pregnant - too far along, in her own judgment, to play.
"I think that for the opposition, to play against someone who is pregnant, is a little bit unfair," McMahon said.
"It’s not just the physical contest, it’s getting your body in the right condition too."
But is it really the addition of the New Zealand teams that has made the competition so physical?
So thought the former NSW Swifts captain Catherine Cox, a photograph of whose battered and bruised face was page 1 news when she was accidentally elbowed in the head two seasons ago.
McMahon says it is simply due to increased training.
"Certainly the game has developed," she says. "But I don’t think it’s too physical."
Last Monday’s game between the new-look Swifts and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic saw the New Zealanders come off second best - and on the scoreboard, too.
Magic shooter Irene van Dyk slammed into the goalpost; their defender Casey Williams took a tumble in the goal circle; and goal attack Julianna Naoupu continued to play after dislocating a finger. Magic centre Laura Langman was almost crunched a couple of times by Swifts defender Sam May and centre Vanessa Ware as they sought to slow her down.
Swifts shooter Susan Pratley described the game at half-time as "very physical".
But it was the Swifts who were out-muscling their New Zealand opponents.
For all the criticism of the players the Swifts lost over summer, new coach Lisa Beehag has brought some toughness and defensive muscle to her team. Despite the loss of Cox, it is not the shooting circle that has suffered from off-season departures. It is the midcourt, where until Kimberlee Green was moved to wing attack halfway through Monday’s game they were having trouble getting centre passes away cleanly.
It will be interesting to see how they fare against the Queensland Firebirds, the premiers, on Sunday at Sydney Olympic Park (this time the match is broadcast live on Channel 10 from 2pm).
One thing’s for sure though: it’ll be tough.