Committee leaves a legacy on Gove netball

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One of Helen Clark’s goals as president of the Gove Netball Association was to see its proposed new court complex come to fruition.

Having been involved with the association since the late 1990s when she moved to the remote Arnhem Land community, located about 1000km east of Darwin, it was a project that Clark and her hard-working committee were committed to delivering to ensure netball had a strong presence in the town of Nhulunbuy well into the future.

But the decision by Rio Tinto to close its refinery meant that about 1000 people living in the town would have to shift elsewhere.

That included Clark and some of her dedicated committee members – some who had already left and others who are in the process of beginning to pack up and prepare to move.

But the good news for the loyal members of the Gove Netball Association is that its recent annual general meeting saw virtually every key position has been filled by those eager to keep it going for the around 120 senior and junior players that take to the court each week.

Clark will hand over the presidency tonight, a position she’s held since 2003 and she’s hopeful that the new committee will continue to push the court development project.

“We had such a positive commitment from the community (at the AGM). People who are staying do want to keep the association alive, especially the junior development side,” Clark said.

The Gove Netball Association currently rents the Nhulunbuy High School gym to host its weekly matches and Clark was delighted to receive a grant to help draw up plans for six proposed new courts.

IMG_0300 copyWhat could also help make the project come to fruition is that the Nhulunbuy Corporation – the local council – has plans to develop a youth centre at the same location in town that will also include two basketball courts.

“It’s a goal of ours to get our own courts. It’s something that we’ve been working on for years and it would have been lovely to see that through but … I definitely hope that dream won’t be parked.”

Clark also paid tribute to her fellow committee members, including Vanessa Drysdale, Nicole Hovelroud and Natasha Rowe for their tireless efforts to establish the association and provide pathways.

“Vanessa has been the driver behind the plans for the development of the new courts,” Clark said.

“She’s always got her finger on the pulse whenever there’s any opportunity to get some money from a government group or whoever. Nicole has been our coaching coordinator and been a key in the development of our juniors and NetSetGO and getting coaches’ accreditation.

“Natasha is just a machine with her organisational skills. She keeps all of our databases up to date and does all the behind-the-scene stuff that people don’t see.”

Not only has Clark served as association president for a decade – broken up by a year she spent back in Darwin – she’s also the umpire coordinator.

Helen-&-Anne-SargentShe’s now a B badged umpire and it’s not uncommon to see her umpiring three games a night as well as playing a match of her own.

Clark is eager to see the association’s other umpires build up their skills.

“Where I can, I run with others and try and encourage them to have a go,” Clark said. “There are a few reasonably good umpires who’d we like to encourage to move forward and get their badges.”

To celebrate National Volunteers Week – which runs until Friday – Netball Australia is honoring the efforts of those around the country who contribute hours of their personal time to ensure Australians can participate in netball.

Having been part of the Gove community since 1997, Clark admits it will be sad when she has to say farewell at some stage later in the year.

“The first couple of people that I met I was asked `do you play netball?’ and said `yes, I love it’ so I got into a team straight away,” Clark said.

“But I feel very confident that it (the association) will keep going.

“We have our own by-laws to suit our local environment. It makes it easier for us but everybody comes along and plays their games and you go home feeling proud.”

Next year Sydney will host the Netball World Cup, the first time it’s been played in Australia in more than 20 years. If you are interested in volunteering for a role, visit to register your details.