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Netball: A Sport for All - Insights from South African Net Queen, Sigi Burger

Tall blonde girl stands in a confident pose in an old barn
Like a boss

I am such a big fan of netball because it’s the one sport in the world where there really is a place for every single body type. You can have the tall girls, you can have the short girls, you can have the fast, you can have the slow, it’s such a cool sport that is so inclusive. It really is a little bit of a dogfight out there sometimes, girls ending up on the floor. You can be the biggest enemies on court but then the minute that final whistle blows, it’s all hugs, all good again, at the end it’s all love.

I think getting that across that relatability barrier is so important because as players you know, we are playing on TV, lots of little girls come to games and they’ll come up to you and I want to show them that the girl you see when we’re on court is not necessarily that same girl off court. So we also laugh, we cry, we also get stressed and panicked and get heartbroken. So it’s important to have that kind of personality in terms of someone that they can look up to but what’s important about that someone they can look up to is that they are also relatable. We’ve all gone through our struggles, we’ve all had our ups and downs, and life hasn’t been fair. And we’ve been left out of selections, where maybe we should have been selected, like even in primary school or high school.

Girl in black vest smiles at camera whilst leaning against the wall of a house

So for me, I’m such a big advocate that you have to have something else going for you. And you know, I always say I have to have a second job because tomorrow I can pick up a career ending injury and retire at 33 years old. You have to be creating a second future on the side.

And, you know, netball is on the rise. But it’s not a sustainable income compared to your footballers, your rugby players, like with men specifically. So you do need to have something else that’s going to fulfil you on the side. Because gone are the days of marrying rich, but fingers crossed I’m still going to!

girl in pink summery dress walking towards a garden table where her sunglasses and drinks are

I think in England they are starting to take netball more seriously, winning the CommonwealthGames in 2018 was huge for putting it on the map. And it’s really exciting here, you know, you talk to other people, like Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins boys, they know about the netball, they know who plays, it’s exciting. In terms of visibility of female sport, you still get these snarky comments like, Oh, why does female sport matter? No one really watches female sports, that kind of thing. And I’m really happy that the World Cupin South Africa brought awareness and visibility to the sport and was like, look, we are so serious. It’s also elite athletes putting their bodies on the line, it’s exciting. Just have a watch and you’ll understand what we mean.

Happy girl spinning in flowing dress in a field

There are so many good men’s teams at the moment. I’m excited that we’ve got the Thorns which is the England Men’s netball team and they created history, like first men’s team ever to go play internationally. So it’s exciting and the amount of little boys who watch netball, they’re like ‘Oh, I play netball it’s so nice’. So it would be very exciting to potentially have a little bit more schoolboy netball so that we can get more people involved. I know if you go to London and you go to social netball there’ll always be men and it will be mostly Aussies and Kiwis but seeing some more British boys getting involved would be very fun.

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