What a remarkable career we’ve watched from an outstanding young women in Natalie von Bertouch.
It is a bitter sweet day for the Australian Diamonds and the Adelaide Thunderbirds to have one of the best hang up her netball shoes and call it a day on an unparalleled netball career.
Two winning World Championships, one as Captain and the other playing alongside her sister Laura, and two Commonwealth Games silver medals are just some of her achievements.
I think the greatest insight into Nat is the way she retired from the game. It was team first. No one knew of her decision prior to the recent ANZ Championship Finals Series apart from those closest to her, her family.
She wanted the Finals to be all about the Thunderbirds and their tilt at winning a historic second ANZ Championship title.
That is Nat all over. She understands intuitively the need to put “we before me” and it is her greatest strength along with her work ethic and absolute honesty and integrity.
As an athlete and netballer, Nat exploited all her god given gifts to the maximum and was the consummate professional in all training settings. She believed in giving her best at all times including fitness testing, recovery sessions, team meetings and all that goes with being a professional athlete and a leader of the T-Birds and the Diamonds.
She is also a scientist in her profession as a Nutritionist and this was used to our advantage in many ways – including me as coach always consulting Nat as to what I would have for our pre-match meal!
I remember first seeing Nat out on court for South Australia in the semi finals of the 19 and under national championships back in 2000. She was actually playing against my daughter, who was playing for Victoria at the time.
It was a terrific contest and showed Nat’s composure at a young age and was noticed by then AIS coach Norma Plummer.
When I arrived at Netball SA Stadium in 2008 for my first training session with the T-Birds as assistant coach, I remember being a little nervous about coaching the great Nat VB and hoping I could connect early in the piece and assist her game as much as possible.
It was evident early on that she wanted to be coached and that is exactly what I did over the next four years. Having been a centre court player myself, and a playing coach for my club, I was able to support Nat’s development in on-court leadership and all the tricks of the trade.
It was, and is, a special relationship that I will always treasure.
It is history now that Nat and I did not quite time our run together as national coach and national captain – injuries saw to that. Although I am grateful for Nat’s unconditional support of me when I was appointed and throughout our time together with the Diamonds.
She has always had my back!
I think my favorite Nat VB highlight was her performance in the Final of the 2011 World Championship – which I have watched about 10 times very closely for obvious reasons.
Her performance, particularly in the second half, was heroic and courageous. Only those close to Nat knew how much she suffered after the loss in Delhi 12 months earlier.
This was her moment of redemption and I rode every pass with her watching on television back in Australia. I knew she would make sure the pass got through on that last play before Caitlin Bassett slotted through the winning goal.
And the rest, as they say, was history and the sort of relief and serenity that only a few experience at this level of elite sport.
We have had so many great moments of Nat VB on our TV screens and supporting her from the stands. She is a true champion.
I will personally miss her dearly but I know that she is now revered as one of the greats of our game.
Nat, Australia salutes you and your contribution to netball!