National league stalwart calls time on career

Commonwealth Bank Trophy Final - Phoenix v SwiftsOne of the longest and most decorated careers in Australian netball is set to finish with Bianca Chatfield announcing she’ll retire from all forms of netball at the end of the ANZ Championship season.

The Melbourne Vixens captain has told teammates and Netball Victoria that her distinguished 17-year national league career will come to an end one their 2015 campaign is over.

The 33-year-old Chatfield has played a combined total of 238 national league matches with only Catherine Cox (254) ahead of her on that list.

Chatfield, who announced her international retirement after being part of Australia’s Commonwealth Games Gold Medal-winning side in 2014 and 59 Tests, said she had discussed her future with Vixens coach Simone McKinnis over the summer and knew the time was right to finish up.

“After finishing my international career last year, I knew I wanted to enjoy one more season with the Vixens,” Chatfield said.

“I am one of the few fortunate athletes that is lucky enough to be able to retire on my terms, when I’m ready.

“I discussed with Simone at the start of the year my intentions and we both knew that to give us the best chance of defending the title and ensuring I leave the club in the best possible position, it was important to manage my load and to give our young defenders an opportunity to develop other combinations out there on court.”

bianca3Chatfield made her national league debut with the Melbourne Phoenix as a 16-year-old back in 1999 and was part of that club’s premiership sides in 2001, ’02, ’03 and ’05.

When the Vixens were formed in 2008, Chatfield has been co-captain or captain every season and is the only player to reach 100 ANZ Championship games for the club. She led them to titles in 2009 – along with Sharelle McMahon – and 2014.

Chatfield said she will hang up her Vixens dress in a couple of months time with no regrets and plenty of memories.

“I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities that Netball Victoria and Netball Australia have provided for me over my entire career – and more importantly the person I’ve become from being a part of this special club for such a long time,” Chatfield said.

“I am lucky to have been surrounded by great people, from all the amazing girls I’ve played with to the coaches who have constantly challenged and supported me and the support staff who have always looked after me.”

Netball Victoria CEO Michelle Plane believes Chatfield has an exciting future ahead after contributing so much to the sport of netball.

“Bianca embodies all the skills and values we love about netball and she has been a great leader during her time,” Plane said.

“Having watched her up close has been a privilege to see how much work she does off the court. Bianca is a highly respected role model and works tirelessly to teach and lead her team in understanding and living those same values.

“It has been our privilege to keep her with us for the past 17 seasons.”ANZ Championship Major Semi Final - Vixens v Mystics

Netball Australia CEO Kate Palmer said Chatfield has been “an inspiration both on and off the court” and would continue to play an in important role in the future of netball.

“Few players have achieved so much success while at the same time building a career and making a valuable contribution to player wellbeing and employment conditions,” Palmer said.

“Bianca is an accomplished leader who through her generous, positive nature and strong commitment has strengthened the culture of our sport and left a legacy of high performance.”

Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander, who was at the helm of Chatfield’s back to back premierships with Melbourne Phoenix and Australia’s Commonwealth Games gold medal, said tribute to the defender’s perseverance.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching Bianca for 13 years and I’m blessed to have been a part of such an incredibly journey,” Alexander said.

“Bianca’s career is a wonderful story of sport with triumphs and tribulations but it’s a credit to her as a player on and off the court that she’s achieved so much in our sport and retires in such high esteem amongst the netball family.”

“She is an engaging, committed and intelligent lady so she’s retiring with the world at her feet.”