Sport

Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Renae Ingles on the triumphs and struggles of returning to top-level netball as the mother of twins and the wife of an NBA basketballer. By Cindy MacDonald.
Credit: SUPPLIED

Baby steps: Renae Ingles, 30, netballer

I can still remember standing on the podium with the 2015 World Cup gold medal around my neck and all I could do was cry tears of joy because it was something I’d worked for for so long. That year will certainly go down as one to remember, not only because we won the world championship in front of family and friends in Sydney, but because I married Joe [Ingles, Australian Boomers and Utah Jazz NBA basketballer] two weeks after that. It was a pretty special time.

Later that year, during the Constellation Cup for the Diamonds, I tore my calf, so I went over to the States to be with Joe and was doing a rehab training program. Around Christmas time we found out we were pregnant with twins. We’d always wanted a big family at some point but it wasn’t a planned pregnancy, so it came as quite a shock. The shock wore off pretty quickly though and turned straight to excitement.

The twins were born on the 25th of July, three minutes apart. Milla was breach, and she came second. So Jacob’s the older brother. Joe was there with me, then two days after that he had to say goodbye to us to leave for the Rio Olympics for a month.

Wing defence has never been that bib everyone jumps for. But I absolutely love it out there and it’s always been my desire to leave a legacy so that the wing defence position is one people do want to play and so little kids run for the spot and feel like they can make an impact on the game and on the team if they’re playing well at wing defence. It’s just not a glamorous position, but that’s okay. When I’m out on the court that’s where I want to be and I’ll make an impact whenever I can.

This year to not be in a team and be doing all of my training on my own over in Salt Lake City with it snowing outside was really, really hard. I missed the Thunderbirds and just missed running out there and being competitive week in, week out. So while I was sitting back in the States watching the Super Netball league start and all of the hype around it, my heart hurt a little bit that, you know, I wasn’t doing that. When sitting down with Joe and talking about whether coming back was a possibility, to know that the new league supports mums – and certainly the Thunderbirds have been incredible in that space – made that decision easier. Absolutely.

It’s been incredibly tough, and probably more on an emotional level than physically. It is very taxing being away from your husband – long-distance is hard – and to have the two kids and be doing all of the nights on my own, plus that guilt of having them away from Joe. But I see myself as incredibly lucky – I’m getting to play the sport I love and adore, then come home to my two beautiful kids, and watch my husband doing well in the sport that he is so passionate about. 

I don’t think I knew what tired really was until I had kids – it’s a whole new level of exhaustion. Oh my gosh, it’s the hardest job in the world but it’s also the most rewarding. And it gives you so much perspective. It’s worrying now about the big things not the little things, because you just don’t have the energy to worry about
all of those little things. I used to think that I needed my eight to nine hours sleep a night to play well, and a routine. All that stuff now is out of the window.

I’ve only played six games of netball since 2015 but I’ve really enjoyed being part of a squad again that’s so passionate. It’s obviously been difficult because the wins aren’t on the board, but everyone’s staying incredibly positive, so a pat on the back to Erin [Bell, the Thunderbirds captain]. And the Pink Army of fans is something very, very special. They’re still coming and cheering for us and showing a lot of support. 

An Olympic medal is absolutely still on Joe’s bucket list. He’s so passionate and determined to get a medal with those Boomers and he’s already talking about that for the next Olympics. Joe’s won just about every competition in the world other than that desired Olympic medal and an NBA Championship ring, so that’s what he’s set his sights on and is working very hard for.

We used to talk about sport a lot, but since the kids our chatter over dinner and coffees has changed a fair bit. Now it’s more about babies and who’s doing what – which baby is hitting what milestone – and how many diapers we went through and what we need at the shops. It’s actually really nice. Of course we still talk about each other’s teams and bounce ideas off each other. But when we’re out on the court and maybe don’t get the results or performances that we want, it’s a really nice thing to have our kids to come home to.

Now that Jazz are out of the playoffs, Joe is going to fly straight to Brisbane to see me play on Saturday night, and we will fly home together to the kids on Mother’s Day. Joe and I were actually saying we are excited for this off-season because it’s just going to be off-season for us. We had Commonwealth Games in 2014 with a gold medal for me, and then we got engaged straight after that, and then Joe had World Championships. Then the next season we had netball World Championships and a wedding, and the last off-season we had twins and Joe went to the Olympics. So we’re actually excited for off-season 2017 and seeing how a normal family spends their time together. It’s so foreign to us. We’re just super excited to sit in front of a fire and have a cuppa and watch our kids run around.

 

This week’s highlights…

Golf: The Players Championship

Until Monday, TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

• AFL: Adelaide Crows v Melbourne

Saturday, 7.10pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

• Rugby union: Super Rugby – Melbourne Rebels v Reds

Saturday, 7.45pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

Netball: Queensland Firebirds v Adelaide Thunderbirds

Saturday, 8.45pm (AEST), Brisbane Entertainment Centre

NRL: Sydney Roosters v Parramatta Eels

Sunday, 4pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

• Motorsport: F1 Spanish Grand Prix 

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 13, 2017 as "Baby steps". Subscribe here.

Cindy MacDonald
is The Saturday Paper’s deputy editor.

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