Verity Charles on the challenges of managing an incurable auto-immune condition, who she looks to for inspiration, and the exciting, game-changing elements of Fast5 netball. By Cindy MacDonald.


Best medicine: Verity Charles, 27, netballer

I know that traditional netball has built an amazing reputation and I get that there are people out there who don’t want to see it change. But at the same time I think, with Fast5, the two-point shot and three-point shot are such exciting assets to the game. It just gives something new. The short quarters mean you can push out as hard as you can and then rotate with subs. It’s such a hard competition because you can score so quickly and the power plays really get you. And in those tight games, if you can sink a three on the buzzer… I think that’s really exciting for netball. So I reckon in a few years if they bring that in – how good?

Nathan [Charles] and I have been married for almost two years now. We’ve probably spent more time apart in these past two years than together. He’s been overseas playing [rugby union] in France and the UK. He’s just an amazing person. He is the only professional athlete in the world with cystic fibrosis playing a contact sport. So I don’t have to look very far to be inspired. He is not only a beautiful person but also an extraordinary athlete.

Sport has been the best thing for [my type 1 diabetes]. The older I’ve got the more wise I’ve become and I think I’ve got a really good handle on it now. Diabetes is a difficult disease but I also thank my lucky stars that it’s nothing worse. In netball, if my levels aren’t right, then I don’t play right – my head’s just not there. And also nerves come into it. You don’t want to get nervous because that interrupts your blood glucose levels. With the demands of professional sport you’ve got to be onto it and very strict. So you have to count calories, count carbs and you’ve just got to be prepared. I was never an organised person but diabetes has definitely made me that. I’ve got to have my meals prepped and know what I’m eating. I’ve got to have food in my back pocket in case I have a low. Of course I wish I never had this disease, but if you’re going to have it, you just have to deal with it, and that’s what I try to do.

I guess Nath and I both just think, “Control the controllables.” We got dealt these hands and you just have to roll with things. It’s a blessing we’ve got each other. Being two athletes with a health condition, we know how to support each other. As I said, I look to Nathan and I’ve got inspiration every day. So I feel very lucky.

For a while we got into one-on-one basketball, but that just can’t happen anymore – I think it will end in divorce. Even going to the driving range, which I thought would be quite relaxed, there always comes the competitive side. That’s okay, that’s what keeps you driven. At the moment, having a little bit of time away from Fever, we’re training together. It’s pretty hard to outlift him in the weights room, but I’ll give it a crack. I get frustrated when he beats me so I’ve got to take it to him. On the ground, doing the speed work, I’ve got him, but in the weights room he’s hard to beat because he’s a strong boy.

Nath came back from the UK and jumped into club rugby. His grand final was on the same day as the Super Netball grand final. Nath came to my game and as soon as it finished took off and played the second half of his. The little bugger ended up scoring the winning try, so he did really well.

It was disappointing for West Coast Fever to lose the grand final. But we still did celebrate the season because from where we came last year to second place this year, that’s massive. You’ve got to acknowledge the hard work we put in and what [coach] Stacey [Marinkovich] has done with the team. It’s a hard pill to swallow but you’ve got to celebrate the small wins.

You never want to see one of your mates delisted. But that’s the thing about sport – it’s a business at the end of the day. I think that’s what everyone forgets. Of course I’m going to miss Nat [Medhurst] at Fever – she has become a good friend, and she’s an amazing athlete. But it made it a bit easier when I heard she got a gig elsewhere and is still going to be out there doing what she loves. When we come up against Collingwood next year I might ask the coach to put me in goal defence. They’re the fun times – give each other a bit of a bump here and there and have a couple of words, and then hug it out after the game. I’m sure we’ll do that.

It’s hard to even picture something outside of netball because I love what I do. I’m doing personal training, so I’ll end up in some kind of health and fitness role. I don’t want to stop being active, especially having diabetes. Anyone who asks me what to do with diabetes, I tell them exercise is honestly the best medicine.

This week’s highlights…

Horseracing: Cox Plate Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.10pm (AEDT), Moonee Valley Racecourse, Melbourne

• Cricket: Pakistan Women v Australia Women, 2nd T20

Saturday, 1pm (AEDT), Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur

Netball: Fast5 Netball World Series

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEDT); Sunday, 12.15pm, Melbourne Arena

Rugby union: Bledisloe Cup – Wallabies v All Blacks

Saturday, 5pm (AEDT), Nissan Stadium, Yokohama, Japan

Motorsport: Australian MotoGP

Sunday, 4pm (AEDT), Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Victoria

Soccer: A-League – Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix

Sunday, 4pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 27, 2018 as "Best medicine".

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Cindy MacDonald is The Saturday Paper’s deputy editor.

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