Netballer Susan Pettitt on fighting her way back into the Australian Diamonds line-up. By Cindy MacDonald.


Another shot: Susan Pettitt, 32, netballer

I debuted with the Diamonds at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. It was a real shock when I made the team. I’d been invited into their selection camp just to help out as a training partner, and at the end of the camp they actually named me in the squad. So it was a whirlwind debut and a really special moment because it was in Australia in front of my family, which was cool. 

It was pretty tough when I was dropped for the 2011 World Championships. I’d just played Commonwealth Games in 2010 and was very much one of the core members of the Australian team. Then when 2011 came around, I didn’t have a great season. I had some personal things that I didn’t deal with and I didn’t train properly and just didn’t perform. When [coach] Norma Plummer didn’t pick me, she pulled me aside and had a chat with me, and I knew it was coming but it still didn’t make it any easier. But Norma was fantastic and she really supported me and told me to have some time off and get my head straight. 

It was probably the best thing for me. It made me realise the balance I needed in life and in netball. I took it really hard but I did take a couple of months off and came back refreshed and fired up and ready to play again. So I came back in 2012 and 2013 and then, I guess, to be dropped again for the past three or four years has been a really tough roller-coaster. But I haven’t shied away from the challenges and I’m motivated to get back out there.

When I got the call-up [for the 2017 quad series against New Zealand, South Africa and England] it was fantastic. There are young players who are just biting at the bit to have a go. Some people probably say, “Why is she still trying to go around”, but for me I knew I had enough good netball left in me and that I could give something to the Diamonds and my national league team. 

It’s about focusing on what I do individually and having some fun with it as well. Obviously international selection is what you’re aiming for, but if you don’t get it, you’ve got to still have fun with what you’re doing. So I’ve been enjoying myself these past couple of years, even with those heartaches and hard times missing selection. I really worked on my fitness and trained hard in the off-season, but I probably trained smarter as well and knew what worked for me and what didn’t. 

The headspace thing is huge. I tell every kid I come across that the main thing is to have fun. If you’re enjoying it, you do play well. You can go from one tournament to the next to the next – and I was very fortunate I was making all the teams – but I probably didn’t recognise the importance of it. In the end, it became a bit of a job and I wasn’t really cherishing it. So I had to get my headspace right. For me it was about taking the time to realise what I’d accomplished instead of worrying about the next tournament. It’s definitely about getting that enjoyment and balance and acknowledging what you’ve achieved.

I was last in the Diamonds in 2013, so it’ll have been four years by the time I get back on the plane. It’s a long time between tours, but I do know the girls really well and I have a lot of experience internationally so I think I’ll be fine.

I had 12 years with the New South Wales Swifts but I needed to refresh and change up what I was doing to keep me excited about netball. The Giants are perfect for that. I get to play with my old coach Julie Fitzgerald and [Swifts teammate] Kim Green in a new club, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. 

There’s still a long way to go but it’s amazing that we’re getting the television and media exposure and people are starting to acknowledge and be interested in what we’re doing. When I first started playing with the Swifts three different leagues ago, we were paying our own way to travel and to get to training and for our strapping tape and all those essentials that help you to perform. So there was no way then I imagined netball getting to this level of professionalism. 

The Fast5 Netball World Series in Melbourne last October was so much fun to watch and be involved in [Pettitt captained the Australian team] and it was great to see the exposure it received. But there’s nothing wrong with the traditional game and I think Fast5 is there just as a bit of entertainment. It also exposes some young players to international netball, which is good for the development of the game. 

I’ve been running my own netball clinics for the past 10 years all around NSW and I love getting out in the regional areas to share my knowledge and experience and have some fun with the kids at a grassroots level. Hopefully I’ll continue to do that for many years to come. I just want to give back to the sport as much as I can and if I can develop some young players that would be great.

My husband [Brad Pettitt] and I have just bought a bit of land in the Illawarra. I’d like to chill out, have some chooks and animals and be a country girl enjoying the simple life away from the busy crazy city. I grew up just outside Bega on a farm.

Yes, I do have a grandstand named after me in Bega, although I’m not sure how much of a grand stand it is. I was down there doing a clinic for the club years ago and all these people came and I thought, “What’s going on?” Then the paper turned up and they did the unveiling [of the Susan Pratley Stand]. It’s a nice little stand outside the netball court, so it was a lovely gesture.


1 . This week’s highlights…

• Cycling: Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Saturday and Sunday, Geelong, Barwon Heads, Torquay

• Cricket: WBBL and BBL grand finals – Perth Scorchers v Sydney Sixers

Saturday, 10.45am and 4.15pm (AWST), WACA Ground, Perth

• Tennis: Australian Open women’s and men’s finals

 Saturday and Sunday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park

Netball: Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 12am (AEDT), Durban International Convention Centre, South Africa

• Cricket: New Zealand v Australia, 1st ODI

Monday, 9am (AEDT), Eden Park, Auckland

Swimming: Australian Open Water Championships

Until Sunday, 7am (ACDT), Brighton Beach, South Australia 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 28, 2017 as "Another shot".

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Cindy MacDonald is The Saturday Paper’s deputy editor.