Gretel Tippett on her switch to netball and her famous sporting brothers. By Richard Cooke.


Taking her shot: Gretel Tippett, 22, netballer

Chronic fatigue was frustrating. Your mind is saying, yeah, you can do it, but you just can’t physically push your body to actually do it and to get up for training and to get out of your body what your mind wants to do.

So I took a break and it gave me an opportunity to reassess my goals and to reassess my dreams. I didn’t have that drive anymore to be the best basketballer I could be, so that’s when I stopped.

What’s the difference between basketball and netball? It’s difficult to explain. It’s a different physicality. They’re both just as physical as each other, but with basketball, I suppose, it’s more upper-body physicality. Whereas with netball, you’ve got someone on your hip, right on you. In basketball, they stand off a little bit and then you run into each other when you’re trying to go for a lay-up, say. But in netball you’ve just got that person on your back the whole time and it’s more lower body physicality, I guess.

I definitely missed the backboard when I started playing netball. And in netball, everything kind of slows down when you go to shoot. I didn’t like everyone watching me shoot, so that took a while to get my head around. 

I shot 13 air balls my first game. That was pretty deflating. I walked off the court thinking, “What have I done here?” But I loved it, so I wanted to go back the next week and do better. I only got 11 then.

I thought it a huge challenge. I remember looking over at Mum, thinking, “Oh, no, I’m so embarrassed.” But it kind of drove me to get better. I just had a burning desire to keep playing and to challenge myself to get better. It’s the love for the game kept me hanging in there, I guess. 

This year I play on the Gold Coast halfway through the season, and Kurt [Gretel’s brother and Sydney Swans forward Kurt Tippett] plays the Suns on the Gold Coast on the same day, at the exact same time. I think we’ll see where my mum’s alliances lie that weekend. But I’m happy in that I’m up in Queensland and Mum and Dad didn’t miss a game last year. 

My parents are my biggest supporters. It doesn’t matter if we win, lose or draw. They’re there after the game with big hugs waiting and they just care that we’re happy and doing something that we love.

We love to talk about things other than sport. We go on family holidays for a week every year, and that’s pretty much where our discussions are. Everyone’s fighting over what destination we go to, and other things happening in our lives, like study. We definitely switch off as soon as we come home from training, which really helps.

Mum and Dad always are onto us to remain balanced and well-rounded people, because sport’s just a part of our lives. It’s not our entire life. I think that’s really important.  

I’m studying dietetics. Nutrition. I am really intrigued by how it can help your performance. Different types of food can have a big impact on how good you feel on game day. We grew up eating really healthy, and I swear it helped us feel really good out on the sporting field. Any edge you can get over your opponent helps.

My brothers [Kurt and North Melbourne defender Joel] and I get each other. I look up to them so much. They’re definitely my sporting idols and we’re always there for each other. If I’ve had a bad week or am just not feeling the best at training, it’s good to talk to them and they’ve been through it all. We send photos of our weekends and what we’re up to and it really helps. 

What do we say on a bad week? It depends on the circumstances. One thing is we just know what each other is capable of. So we just give each other confidence, and say that’s one week and there are many other weeks in the season or in the pre-season or whatever. 

Every time I did a basketball move when I played for Sydney I’d get in trouble. Kimberley Ravaillion, my roommate and teammate, she just loves the basketball flair and she was like, “Come on, Gretel, you have to do it.” She likes to see those lay-ups.

But no dunks. You’re not allowed to touch the ring in netball. Otherwise I would have had Romelda [Aiken] doing it. She’s a freak.

1 .  

2 . This week’s highlights…

• A-League: Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory

Saturday, 5.15pm (AEDT), Hunter Stadium, Newcastle

• Super Rugby: Chiefs v Western Force

Saturday, 5.35pm (AEDT), FMG Stadium, Waikato, New Zealand

• AFL: Sydney Swans v Collingwood    

Saturday, 7.25pm (AEDT), Sydney Cricket Ground

Cricket: ICC World Twenty20 – Australia v India

Monday, 1am (AEDT), Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, India

• NRL: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Melbourne Storm

Monday, 7pm (AEDT), Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney

• Netball: Queensland Firebirds v Mainland Tactix

Friday, 6pm (AEST), Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 26, 2016 as "Taking her shot".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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