GIANTS Netball’s Bec Bulley had about eight months to unwind the kinks from childbirth and barely nine weeks to relaunch her netball career.
That her 2017 incursion on Suncorp Super Netball’s defensive circle has been so successful is a powerful message that motherhood and elite sport need not be mutually exclusive.
“Why would you put off (parenthood) when there’s such fantastic support?” Bulley said after a near flawless opening three rounds.
International Women’s Day 2017’s theme – Be Bold for Change – could hardly be more appropriate to apply to Bulley’s comeback story.
After all, the 34-year-old former Australian Diamond had achieved everything in the game and in her mind, had much to risk by shelving retirement.
Bulley retired in 2015 as a three-time premiership player, and a world champion after the Diamonds’ World Cup final win against New Zealand.
Few have the opportunity to exit on the highest highs and Bulley grabbed her chance to transition into coaching and parenthood.
Sitting out the 2016 season provided none of the restlessness experienced by many retirees, and making a comeback was far from her mind when Giants defender Kristiana Manu’a suffered a season-ending injury in December.
“I was really enjoying retirement,” Bulley said.
“My plan was to do some coaching in the (NSW) premier league.
“When (coach) Julie (Fitzgerald) rang, part of me wanted to say, no, I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
That was never a likely outcome for a player as competitive as the former Firebird, Thunderbird and Swift.
In her first three games Bulley has been a rock for the undefeated Giants.
“She’s doing what she’s always done, which is working the goal attack over and providing protection for the goal keeper,” said commentator and former Australia captain Liz Ellis.
“The reason Sam Poolman’s doing so well is the work Bec’s doing out front.”
Bulley’s comeback started almost to the minute she answered Fitzgerald’s call.
Backed by netball’s newly strengthened parental care policy and her family’s support, Bulley fished her training shoes out from beneath the boxes of baby clothes and nappies in the cupboard and hit the road.
In netball’s new age of professionalism, nine weeks was barely enough to prepare for Round 1 but Bulley and the Giants’ conditioning staff put into place a conservative training plan to ensure the defender would not let down her new teammates.
“There was no point rushing (and getting injured),” she said.
“And now I’m actually feeling really good, almost better than before I retired.
“I don’t know if the break gave me some extra motivation, or just having an unexpected opportunity and no pressure of selection.”
Maybe having 11-month-old daughter Indie courtside throughout the pre-season was the key.
“She loves it. She loves coming to training and having fun with all her aunties,” Bulley said.
Written by Damien Stannard
Photography: Getty Images