Penzance Netball Club celebrates 50 years!

Posted July 5, 2023 by Poppy O'Reilly

Each week we bring you a good news story from across the South West as part of our wedNEWSday articles.

It’s been 50 years since Penzance Netball Club – the club at the end of Cornwall – started with friends throwing a ball around in a car park, and the club has celebrated with a big anniversary party.

Almost 100 members past and present, as well as friends of the club, gathered in a marquee at Penzance Rugby Club in June to commemorate such a special occasion. The night started with Head Senior and Junior Coaches, Stacey and Laura, carrying out this season’s awards night, with so many excellent players and club people nominated.

Next, the club’s Chairperson Penny did a heartwarming speech, which told stories of the team that started the club off, playing in a local car park. We heard how they used to hide the posts in the bushes week to week, and ‘shift’ cars that were in the way.

They left a wonderful legacy, which the club has built upon, so it was very special to see so many from this original team on the night, sharing stories, and bringing along their original jumpers, bibs and photos from the 1973 season and beyond. As well as the worthy award winners, a few key people were also thanked and commemorated. Sue Wood, one of the original 1973 members, is still playing Walking Netball, and she is a wonderful representation of how netball can carry on throughout our lives. Ann Nicholas was also honoured, a long-time coach of the club, and someone that almost everyone in the marquee would have played alongside, umpired with or been coached by at some point.

A poignant moment came with the presenting of the Rachel Willday Award, the club’s most important trophy. Rachel was a big part of the club, and was the captain of the 1st team when she tragically passed away in a car accident at age 18. Each year, a player who embodies the values of Rachel and Penzance Netball Club is presented with the Rachel Willday Award. This year the club was honoured to invite Prue Willday, Rachel’s mum, along to present the award and share her thoughts of what the club meant to Rachel, and there were also some of Rachel’s former teammates present, who shared their memories. The deserving winner of this year’s award was Maia Adams, who has been an absolute asset to our club since joining – everyone adores her!

The club was sent well wishes from supporters near and far, including former players who now live in faraway places such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. There were also video messages from netball legends such as Gary Burgess, Geva Mentor, Paige Reed, Imogen Allison, Chelsea Pitman, Lindsay Keable, Sacha Mcdonald and Jade Clarke!

“It’s amazing to think that what started as a group of friends throwing a ball around in a car park has led to a thriving club with five senior and five junior teams,” said Kate Laity, a member of the club’s committee who has been playing for Penzance for more than 25 years. The club also has links with Walking Netball, runs Netball Now sessions in the summer, and has just started mixed netball, as well as beginning to add Bee Netball to its offerings.

Once the awards and presentations were finished, the evening continued with a hog roast, drinks and kicking off those shoes to dance like only netballers can! Here’s to the next 50 and beyond…

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