Players say they are now having to scramble to reschedule their university degrees and inform employers of the 11th-hour move. The majority of elite netballers either study or work part-time, with many players on the minimum wage of $33,000.
Giants defender Matilda McDonell is studying law and psychology at UNSW. Her scholarship is dependent on participation and grades. The 20-year-old said she may have to defer for a semester to ensure she keeps her scholarship.
“Initially we were all pretty concerned about part-time commitments,” she said. “COVID-19 has been a bit of a hit financially for all of us, but I think globally everyone is struggling financially.”
According to a recent survey of Super Netball players and training partners, about 50 per cent are studying with 40 per cent committed to casual or part-time work. Many players also have their own side-hustles, such as coaching or personal training.
McDonell said a lot of her teammates coached other teams to boost their income, but that those commitments would have to be put on hold due to the Queensland move.
Some netballers were employed in retail or at their local supermarkets during the pandemic to compensate for the 70 per cent pay cut.
‘We haven’t really got many details on when we will leave or how long it [the season] will be.’
Giants star Kiera Austin, who is also studying medical science, is unsure how her degree will work while based in Queensland.
“There definitely is some feelings of uncertainty,” she said. “We haven’t really got many details on when we will leave or how long it [the season] will be.”
Austin said teammate Caitlin Bassett had also just taken on a guide dog, which she would be unable to take to Queensland.
“These are such hard conversations to have,” Austin said. “We could have 24 hours notice before we need to leave before borders close.”
Australian Netball Players Association chief executive Kathryn Harby-Williams said players giving up their part-time jobs and study commitments was not ideal.
“We do know that a lot of girls study and have other work to top up their income,” she said. “It’s not ideal and they’re trying to do their best … so, unfortunately, there will be some sacrifices that those girls need to make.”
Harby-Williams said those who are having to move away from family will be closely monitored, with the union on high alert over player welfare.
“They’re trying to do their best and trying to give the competition every chance,” she said.
Swifts captain Maddy Proud said she actively checked on the wellbeing of a number of younger players during Monday’s training session.
“A lot of the girls have husbands and long-term partners – one of them is supposed to be getting a puppy in three days,” she said. “Financially it’s going to be tough for a lot of the younger girls.”
Proud said a lack of details about the Queensland hub and uncertainty on how long the players would be away had heightened the team’s concerns.
“It’s one of those ones where we’ve tried not to worry too much until we know more details,” she said. “Everyone is planning for the worst – you could potentially be away for over two months which is a daunting idea. Can people’s family visit, can partners come up? They’re the questions floating around at the moment.”
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.