Australian Diamonds and NSW Swifts centre courter Paige Hadley on the roller-coaster ride of injuries and World Cup wins. By Richard Cooke.


Trading options: Paige Hadley, 24, netballer

It’s been a bumpy ride. I’m still quite young, and obviously it’s been a very rapid start.

I think I was 20 when I played group for Australia. Everything happened really quickly and then, in 2014, I did my ACL. I learnt real quick that things don’t just happen, don’t just fall in your lap. Ever since then, obviously, it’s been up and down.

I won gold at the World Cup [in 2015]. But then missed out on international selection the year after, and this year I’ve missed most of the season with injury. I like to describe it as a roller-coaster.

Sometimes you wish that it was an easier journey. But I’ve loved the challenge that netball has thrown at me. Hopefully the roller-coaster is going to go back up now.

The frustration comes out of knowing what you’re capable of and not being able to produce that on the day, thanks to injury.

This year I was the third-oldest in the team. I’m used to being the baby, so I had to learn real quick. It made me realise that my body is pretty much my engine room and I can’t play netball without it. I learnt that as much as I want to play netball, and as much as I want to be out there, if my body is not right then I can’t push it; I don’t want to jeopardise playing for the next six to eight years.

At the start you think you’re invincible. But you’ve got to be realistic. I learnt I had to take the good with the bad, and sit out.

It’s great for women’s sport at the moment. There’s certainly more options now for girls to aspire to.

I’ve never thought about going to AFL. But if I did, it would be one of those things I did post-netball. I love the game of netball and I think it’s in a really good place, and I want to be there when it goes to greater heights with women’s sport.

There is an element where you want to maintain the attention on your sport. We are the most played sport by women and we want to stay that way. It’s great that women are getting out there in other sports, and that adds to more publicity, but we do know that we’ve got to make sure our game stays at the forefront of sport – of women’s sports and people’s minds. Especially against the AFLW, who have the backing of the men’s AFL.

I could be a full-time athlete, but I choose to study on the side. I also do part-time work in the off-season. I just finished my bachelor of business and commerce (advanced business leadership) at university and now I’m studying personal training.

While I am playing sport I’m going to study. That’s my outlook: to do as much as I can, and then post-sport I’ll have multiple options. I know that injuries happen, and I know sport is not forever.

Netball has always been a massive advocate to have other avenues to study and have that balance. I love having something else in my life so it’s not just all netball and the people in your life are not all netball. It’s balance around your sporting commitments.

I was studying at school when I was still playing netball at a high level. Sometimes you see your friends out, and they’re all doing different things, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Netball has given me friendships and life experiences.

I miss out on being a part of weddings, miss friends’ birthdays. But I’ve learnt that friendships aren’t just about those sort of things, and I’ve built great relationships outside of netball that aren’t just based on who can party with you or whatever.

The injuries, the criticisms, the media… that you have to deal with. It’s amazing. My friends look at me and say, “You know, I wish I was doing that.” There’s obviously a double-edged sword aspect, but I wouldn’t change that.

Paige Hadley is the Luke Priddis Foundation ambassador for this weekend’s City to Surf.


This week’s highlights…

AFL: Geelong Cats v Richmond

Saturday, 2.10pm (AEST), Simonds Stadium, Geelong

NRL: Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters

Saturday, 5.30pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

• Athletics: City to Surf

Sunday, from 7.50am (AEST), Hyde Park to Bondi Beach, Sydney

Golf: US PGA Championship

Until Sunday, Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina

Motorsports: Austrian MotoGP

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Red Bull Ring, Spielberg

Rugby union: Women’s Rugby World Cup – Australia v France

Monday, 4.45am (AEST), UCD Bowl, Dublin

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 12, 2017 as "Trading options".

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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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