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The final whistle blows on former Australian Diamond Natalie Medhurst’s 17-year netball career


Growing up in a small country community, Natalie Medhurst is the first to admit her rise to elite level sport came as a surprise.

Last week, the former Diamond, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and multi-time World Cup player announced her retirement from a professional netball career spanning 17 years.

The third-most-capped national league player took to the court 235 times and scored 4,415 goals across Commonwealth Bank Trophy, ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball competitions.

Medhurst, who was born in Melbourne, returned home to finish her career with the Collingwood Magpies in her native Victoria.

Grateful for family support

When the 178 centimetres goal shooter was just three, her family packed up and moved to the small south-east South Australian township of Millicent, where she became involved in local country sport.

A team photo with eight girls in netball uniforms
Natalie Medhurst, left, back row, began her netball career with the Millicent Saints in South Australia.(Supplied: Millicent Football and Netball Club)

“My parents ran the Somerset Hotel in Millicent so we also lived there (at the hotel). It was awesome, we loved it as kids, it was different home compared to most and my parents were incredibly busy,” Medhurst said.

She said the family’s commitment to supporting her in local sports such as Little Athletics and basketball eventually turned to taking return road trips to Adelaide for state team trials in netball.

“Dad was heavily involved in the footy club, and footy and netball go hand in hand so that’s really where everything started and it took off from there,” she said.

Career exceeded dreams

Medhurst began her professional career in 2004 with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, before heading to the Queensland Firebirds in 2010, followed by stints with West Coast Fever and the Collingwood Magpies.

The Thunderbirds club champion and two-time winner of the Tanya Denver medal and the Adelaide Advertiser player of the year (2006 and 2007) came as highlights in the early days, but it was in 2007 when she first wore the green and gold as Diamond #144.

Medhurst represented Australia with the Diamonds on 86 occasions and went on to win three Netball World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold medal, one Commonwealth Games silver medal and six Constellation Cup titles.

Throughout her Diamonds career, she scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.

Cool under pressure

Reflecting on her rise in the sport and time at the top, she said her competitive streak married well with a naturally laid-back style on court.

“I was very chilled out on court, I think some people confused that and thought I was lazy … but I’ve always loved the pressure — that’s probably why I’m a shooter.”

“Competing was the best thing; game day and those big games … are something I’m really going to miss.”

A woman in an Australian netballer uniform holding a netball. Another player defends
Natalie Medhurst scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.(AAP)

She said she was most proud of seeing how far the sport had come, with a clearer pathway for young athletes looking to make it to the top.

” … But a thing that helped me a lot was that I played a lot of sports — I wasn’t fixated on netball at a young age.”

And for the next generation of country kids throwing the ball around an asphalt court, Medhurst has this to say: “Realise it is incredibly hard work; it takes a lot of dedication — and from parents too. So for the kids, make sure you thank your parents.”

Young players follow footsteps

Donna Denton, who is a grade coach with the Millicent Saints, said Medhurst had inspired a new generation of young players.

Lisa Alexander celebrates with Natalie Medhurst
Natalie Medhurst, seen here with then coach Lisa Alexander, left, says she will miss competing.(AAP: Paul Miller)

She said the township of Millicent still claimed Medhurst as one of their own.

“Obviously there’s a keen interest in our town following her,” Denton said.

Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport.

“Nat has made an enormous contribution to Netball in Australia, both on and off the court, and we congratulate her on an incredible career,” she said.



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Serena Williams and her daughter join Natalie Portman in ownership of women’s football team


A new women’s football team is coming to Los Angeles, and it will have some pretty big names running the show from the top.

The National Women’s Soccer League has confirmed the tentatively-named Angel City will begin competing in the national competition from 2022 after a “majority woman-founded group” secured the exclusive rights to bring a franchise to LA.

That group contains tennis star Serena Williams — and her two-year-old daughter Olympia — actors Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria, tech entrepreneurs Julie Uhrman and Alexis Ohanain and a number of current and former US women’s team players.

“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” Portman said.

“I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles.

“Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base.

“Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere.”

Serena Williams and baby
Serena Williams and her daughter Olympia in 2018.(Instagram: Serena Williams)

Speaking to AP, Portman said she heard Abby Wambach, a former US national team player, speak at a Time’s Up event and started thinking about how female athletes are regarded in society.

Then she and venture capitalist Kara Nortman met Becca Roux, the executive director of the US Women’s National Team Players Association.

“We started going to games and we just got so into it. And it was just kind of a revolution to see my son and his friends, these little eight-year-old boys at the time, wanting to wear their Rapinoe jerseys, and Alex Morgan jerseys,” Portman said.

“I was like ‘wow, this would be a different world’. It wasn’t unusual to them at all.”

Actress Natalie Portman is seen posing for a photo at a premiere of her film 'Annihilation', wearing a black dress.
Natalie Portman says she hopes the team can produce role models for young girls and boys.(AP: Jordan Strauss)

There were hints that the group was coming together last year when Portman, Garner, Longoria and other celebrities went to a national team exhibition game at LAFC’s stadium before the World Cup.

The women also reached out to a local supporters group that has been campaigning to bring a team to Los Angeles. The plan is to bring on additional investors as the team takes shape.

“I think it’s so important to have role models and heroes that are women for kids — both boys and girls — to see,” Portman said.

“It’s just such an incredible sport in that it really is a team sport. You see one woman’s success and all the others are cheering her on because one woman’s success is the whole team’s success.”

ABC/AP



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