THE HISTORY OF THE BNA – THE FIRST 30 YEARS
Founded on 19th September, 1971
To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize
Sir Henry Newbolt
Sir Henry Newbolt’s words epitomize the drive behind the formation of the Brisbane Netball Association. However, it would not be an understatement to record that the Brisbane Netball Association evolved from a revolution.
Prior to the formation of the Brisbane Netball Association in 1971, The Queensland Netball Association was the only netball association in Brisbane. While the ladies who administered the QNA may have had the best of intentions, their lack of administrative and business expertise resulted in the sport being centralized at Downey Park with an appalling lack of facilities, no development plans and no coaching or umpiring programmes. The QNA’s main focus was to run the fixtures at Downey Park. They did not provide a fixture draw and every two weeks, teams collected slips of paper telling them their times for the next two weeks. This was the environment for a series of events.
Lorraine Decker and Di Potter had been playing in the State team for some years and were frustrated by Queensland’s poor performances and lack of administrative support. The QNA regularly sent the State Team away to the Australian Titles without an umpire, and in one instance, without a coach. Additionally, all games in Queensland were played on sub-standard grass courts with shortened games (4 x 10 minutes or 2 x 20 minutes) which were centrally timed without any injury time and without nets on the goal rings. The adjustment required for the players at interstate level was overwhelming.
Irene Timothy had been coaching a NSW State team before she and her husband were transferred to Brisbane and she was immediately co-opted to coach the Queensland Team. Irene was horrified to be told that she could not wear a State blazer because she was not a player and therefore had not earned the right. It was therefore natural that these three and other members of the State Team formed an alliance. Swimming icon, Joe King (decd) was a stalwart of this group. He was the strength and coach of Goldwings Club who were the premier club of the time and whose players dominated the State Team. They questioned the QNA executive’s administration and ideals and why the sport could not be de-centralized as it is today and why facilities and coaching programmes were not being developed. The group called for ‘radical’ improvements some of which included all weather courts (with nets on the goal posts), quality floodlighting, first class amenities and an indoor stadium. QNA responded by stonewalling every approach and claimed that nothing could be done as there was no money.
‘The Rebels’ tried for 12 months to change and improve all facets of the QNA from within its framework without success. Unfortunately the minutes of meetings with the QNA were often ‘adjusted’ to protect the QNA’s position and did not reflect agreements which had been reached. This led to volatile times with the disbursement and management of the QNA’s finances under scrutiny. Consequently ‘The Rebels’ distributed pamphlets to all players at Downey Park calling on them to support and question the disbursement of finances and demanding audited accountability and a professional administration. This drew an overwhelming response from clubs and individuals. The main identities were former State player and president of Ace Netball Club Sandra Bates, the president of Norths Netball Club Merle Kimmins and University Club which was spearheaded by Mary Hawkins. Thelma Gordon represented Goldwings and Jacki Black, a PE teacher at Kelvin Grove College, put her weight behind the cause as did Souths Club for which Irene, Di and Lorraine played.
A sizeable contingent attended the QNA’s 1970 AGM believing that the weight of their numbers would force the QNA to ‘come screaming into the 20th century’.
This meeting proved to be the turning point. While it is now amusing to note that the Queensland Netball Association refused to provide a financial report to its members, stating that it was not their policy, it was frustrating and provocative at the time and the group were further frustrated when, half way through the meeting, members were denied voting rights, and subsequently speaking rights, by the chair, QNA President, Mavis Martin.
This resulted in our foundation members seeking legal advice and the ‘group’ was indebted to the voluntary assistance provided by Graham Gill (decd.), a Sandgate Solicitor, and to Queensland’s most celebrated judge, Mr. Tony Fitzgerald QC who provided his invaluable opinion at no cost. As a result of this opinion and advice, our foundation members recognized that there were three alternatives:-
- To maintain membership of the Q.N.A. and thereby accept the system with no ability to effect any improvement
- To opt out (upon reflection this would have been by far the easiest but far less satisfying)
- To form a new association in which their ideals, ideas and aspirations for the sport could be implemented.
Fortunately our founders opted for the third alternative.
A formation meeting was held at the Queensland Swimming Association’s rooms at the Valley Pool on 19th September, 1971, and the Brisbane Netball Association was born.
The first Executive was:-
President: Merle Kimmins
Vice Presidents: Sandra Bates & Lorraine Decker
Hon Secretary: Mary Hawkins
Hon Treasurer: Irene Timothy
Games Convenors: Di Potter & Elizabeth Hatton
Publicity Officer: Lorraine Decker
The Trustees were Thelma Gordon and Jacki Black with Kerry Potter as Hon. Auditor and Graham Gill as Hon. Solicitor.
The official colours adopted were poinsettia red and white with the poinsettia flower as the Association’s official floral emblem.
Seven of the original members, Sandra Bates, Lorraine Decker, Thelma Gordon, Mary Hawkins, Merle Kimmins, Diane Potter and Irene Timothy each contributed $1.00 to establish a bank account in the name of the Brisbane Netball Association. From these humble beginnings the assets of the Association have grown from that original $7.00 to over $518,000.00 thirty years later.
Naturally the structure of the Association and accountability to the members was extremely important. Constitutions from every conceivable sporting body were studied and the best aspects used for the BNA’s first constitution. However the formation of the association was the easy part – the real work had only just started.
Finding headquarters was the first hurdle. The networking and support of business and community contacts was incredible. Merle Kimmins enlisted the help of her friend, Norma Sleeman (the Lady Mayoress) and a strong relationship was developed with the BCC Parks Department. As a result Ray Steward of BCC Parks became a strong supporter and initially Annand Park at Chermside was proposed as a possibility.
In the mean time Meyers Taylor, a firm in Sandgate Road, Virginia, emerged as knights in shining armour and following an interview with Lorraine Decker, they generously granted the Association the use of their land in Robinson Road, Virginia free of any costs (which included power) for a year. This acreage was a former golf practice range and therefore had excellent facilities with a floodlit grassed area.
Our first Executive had seven days to get these ground in playing condition to start the season, so the girls and their families brought out their picks and shovels and lawnmowers. Everything had to be manufactured from scratch. Goal rings and galvanized posts were manufactured, net off-cuts were donated by the prawn trawlers at Shorncliffe for goal ring nets and the girls and their families surveyed and marked five grass courts with creosote and sump oil, erected goal posts and made the deadline through sheer physical determination.
The first Summer Season commenced on 8th November, 1971 with 26 teams playing on Monday and Thursday nights for seniors and Saturday mornings for juniors. Daylight saving was a boon as it allowed the 6 p.m. games to be played in full daylight. The first Winter fixtures were played on Saturday afternoons and commenced on 15th April 1972 with 9 grades.
In addition to endless fundraising, grading, production of fixture booklets, operating a canteen, playing, coaching and umpiring, every weekend was taken up with working bees. The grounds had to be mowed each week, courts re-marked with lime, the club house cleaned and grass and rubbish dumped – work even included catching and shearing two abandoned sheep which roamed on the property.
In these early years, the founders also hand made pennants for the trophies. (This didn’t change until 1975 when the Association started to purchase wooden trophies, which Vicki Luchich’s brother made at his home and the Association purchased an engraving machine and John Bates engraved individual plaques). At the same time the same girls who slaved in the sun also operated a home sewing industry to make all the rep uniforms and ID bibs.
From the very beginning the BNA was considered extremely radical. Fixtures matches were full 4 x 15 minute games with injury time added, nets were fixed to goal rings and men were permitted to be members. By our second year of operation the Association had also introduced the compulsory wearing of ID Bibs and non-competitive fixtures for juniors.
The latter became known as “Nippers” which was developed in 1977 by Lorraine Decker into a 15-week skills teaching programme for beginners in lesson form. This programme was years ahead of the “Aussie Sports” programmes which were developed by the Federal Government.
While the use of Meyers Taylor’s property allowed the Association to establish itself, the major goal was to establish permanent headquarters. An application for the lease of Annand Park, Chermside was transferred to Bradbury Park by the Brisbane City Council and in 1972 the Brisbane City Council granted a lease of the current headquarters at Bradbury Park, Chermside. The area provided by the BCC included 10 grass courts and four bitumen courts (the first bitumen courts in Brisbane) which were supplied by the Brisbane City Council. The courts were surveyed and graded by the BCC only to find too late that courts 5 to 10 had been graded against an easement which was privately owned. Owners subsequently fenced their properties and this is why these courts have no surrounds on their western side.
Facilities had to be built but the girls found that the Banks would not lend money to women, let alone a women’s sporting organization with few assets other than their determination and brains. However a Bank Loan was finally secured by Lorraine Decker who with her husband John and her parents, Nancy and Cyril Verney, stood personal guarantors for the Association. With the help of a State Government subsidy of $1,900, this Bank Loan allowed $5,700.00 to be spent to build the first clubhouse and 2 additional bitumen courts. Although the clubhouse was not a contender for an architect’s award, it was functional nevertheless and provided all the essential facilities for players and members.
While permanent headquarters was cause for celebrations, members became surveyors, court markers. landscapers, painters, concrete layers, drain cleaners, domestic cleaners and brickies’ labourers….and at the same time they continued to be administrators, fundraisers, players, umpires and coaches. These years were very much family affairs. Executive members not only committed themselves, they had total commitment from their families who freely donated their time and professional services. Foremost of these ‘family’ workers was John Bates who provided a wealth of talent and professional services. He drew plans, surveyed courts and devised ‘fool proof’ methods for their remarking, engraved trophies, hand wrote personalized pennants, designed the Association’s first letterhead and the BNA’s badge and logo, Nipper certificates, games convenors’ proformas and scorecards. His services seemed endless and were only matched by his willingness to support the Association. Another notable contributor was accountant Ernie Harris A.C.A., who commenced auditing the financial records in 1972 and continued to donate his professional services until 1985.
The founders became innovative fundraisers. Beside the normal ‘200 Clubs’ (which gave John Decker a great excuse to network pubs), raffles, car washes, lamington drives and even a street collection, fund raising from street stalls was a major factor. They were co-ordinated by Edna Bannah and conducted in Sandgate outside Lorraine & John Decker’s business. Edna allocated the entire area under her house for street stall storage, sorting and pricing. Initially the street stalls started with the sale of unclaimed lost property and developed into a major outlet of home made jam which was made by Joan Butler’s dad, Cec Ash (who produced 1,200 jars of jam and pickled onions over one 12 month period), and cooking by Joan’s mum, Gladys, as well a host of other home made products provided by members.
Despite the ‘work’ factor, the group was extremely social and fun and camaraderie prevailed at fundraising events which netted thousands of dollars. Presentation of Trophies nights, a gala ball at Riverside, bush dances, Melbourne Cup days, fashion parades, bar-b-ques, theatre and movie nights, progressive dinners and Christmas parties (which were generally pool side) were some of the more notable. The Presentation of Trophies nights were special functions with committee members and their spouses and teams presenting ‘Red Faces’ segments. Committee members would pay to attend, prepare the function room, usually serve the food, be involved in the ‘performances’, present the trophies, and return the next day to clean up.
In conjunction with a newly established hospitality course at the Brackenridge TAFE, the Association organized ‘guinea pigs’ for the students for breakfasts and lunches and raised funds by selling tickets. In return, the BNA donated trophies for awards to the students. Other income was derived from parking fees at Bradbury Park, sale of BNA car stickers (which announced that ‘We have a ball at Bradbury Park, home of the BNA’), sale of Lions Christmas Cakes, screen printed netball aprons (which stated ‘I’d rather play netball than work’) and special fun BNA prayers. Probably two of the most innovative fundraisers were a ‘sweep’ to guess the birth date and weight of Lorraine Decker’s baby (now a strapping 15 year old who is also a badged umpire and accomplished player) and lawn bowls. The latter developed due to netball traffic creating dust problems on the Chermside Bowls Club’s rinks. The then president of the Chermside Bowls Club, Derek Self, approached the president of BNA, Lorraine Decker about the problem and a combined fundraising venture with the Chermside Bowls Club was evolved. The Bowls Club were celebrating their 35 year anniversary with a March Community Fair and $2,000 was raised to seal part of the driveway. This initial venture was a forerunner to very successful and popular annual Bowls competitions when two netballers combined with two bowlers to form teams. Subsequently this led to the BNA’s participation in the Bowls Club’s Heart to Heart fundraising for the Prince Charles Hospital. A reverse competition where the bowlers would join the netballers at netball was always ‘threatened’ but the bowlers opted instead to attend official functions such as the opening of the season and were often involved in judging the march past and best-dressed team which were part and parcel of the opening of each Winter Season.
Administration was conducted on a shoestring. No one claimed expenses for phone calls and postage or out of pocket expenses. Joan Butler even purchased her own receipt books and journals to allow her to act as Treasurer. There were no computers, electric typewriters or photocopiers. Members used their own manual typewriters, and carbon paper was the only duplicating device until a second hand Gestettner copying machine was purchased to produce fixture booklets and reports. This completely voluntary administration continued until 1987 when the Association employed a secretary for one day a week. Thirty years later, a host of volunteers are still involved but much of the administration work is handled by two part-time staff working four days a week.
Country association had withdrawn from the QNA in protest of their “Queen Street” organization and had formed the Queensland Combined Country Association (QCCNA). Soon after formation in 1971 the BNA made contact with the QCCNA however their mistrust of ‘Brisbanites’ was so great, that they placed the BNA on a 12 month probation period before initially accepting the BNA as an associate member. The QCCNA subsequently amended its name to the Queensland Combined Netball Association to accept the BNA’s affiliation. This allowed the BNA to compete in the QCNA’s State Titles.
Our first sponsor was the Golden Circle Cannery who initially donated a fridge for the canteen. Golden Circle have earned our loyalty and appreciation for their exceptional support which has spanned the past 30 years. Their executives, Peter Clifford and Alf de Groot have become close colleagues and personal supporters of the BNA.
In the late 1970s, State Members for Stafford, Terry Gygar approached the Association to offer his considerable support and among other items, provided our Honour Boards and the Trophy Cabinet. He was also instrumental in effecting meetings with the QNA and in 1980 accepted the role of Patron of the Association.
Another BNA first was the introduction of Winter Night netball. This was instigated by Joan Butler who organized and convened the first season which commenced on 17th April 1974 with five teams. By 1976 the competition had grown to 19 teams and by 1992, 84 teams confirmed that Winter Night netball was here to stay.
By December 1975 the Association boasted nine bitumen courts, six of which were floodlit, three grass courts and four nipper courts. By 1977 the Association had ten bitumen courts, eight of which were floodlit. In 1978 the Association completed major extensions to the clubhouse at a cost of $8,500.00 as well as floodlighting ten bitumen courts. Again the banks were reluctant to lend money to the Association and again John and Lorraine Decker gave their personal guarantee to secure the necessary bank loan.
A feature of 1979 was when the BNA played host to Tasmania for the first time. Previously BNA rep teams had visited Tasmania in 1977 and 1978 and the Association was thrilled to extend the competition to other members of QCNA with teams from Far North Queensland, North Queensland, Central Queensland and South Queensland competing. The Chermside Bowls Club had already formed a close working relationship with the BNA and became involved in this tournament by donating a perpetual trophy.
By 1984 the clubhouse was again extended to provide a new Administration Office with modern equipment. The umpires were also provided with a meeting and change room.
In 1985 the BNA became a foundation member of the Combined Australian Netball Association and this opened up a National competition for our members. Also in 1985 the Association conducted an open competition to design the BNA’s badge. Col Hoy (decd) of Ansett Airline was a fabulous supporter and organized an Ansett return airfare to Canberra with accommodation and a tour through the newly established Institute of Sport as a prize. This attracted considerable numbers of designs but members were not completely satisfied and it was left to the ever capable John Bates who finally designed our current badge.
1986 saw some more ‘firsts’ when the BNA introduced a Mixed competition and the commencement of Men’s Fixtures in the 1986/87 Summer Season.
In 1987 the BNA became an incorporated body and this shifted the onus of management onto a Management Committee rather than a Council comprised of members’ delegates. Compulsory attendance at meetings was therefore no longer required and this lifted forced responsibilities from the members. The Association’s wooden light poles were replaced by steel light poles and new floodlighting.
Around this time the BNA started to promote itself and a portfolio was produced which gained valuable sponsorship from various companies for competitions, carnivals and as advertisers. A monthly magazine, The Bradbury Bulletin was published free of charge and this opened more avenues for sponsors to become involved as well as providing news, advice and vital communication with members.
By 1990 the BNA had introduced a scheme to reimburse official umpires’ expenses and this swelled the official umpires’ ranks, improved umpiring standards and left players with a minimum of umpiring tasks.
The Association entered the 1990s with a new letterhead which was designed by Association member and graphic designer, Jodie Fern (now Jodie Dent), who donated her services.
As late as 1992 the BNA continued to be a unique organization being the only netball association to have full-length fixture matches with individual timing and injury time, all weather courts, official umpires and competitions for women, men, juniors and mixed teams. By 1993 there were 200 teams playing annually.
In 1994, after 23 years of independence, the BNA affiliated with the Queensland Netball Association Inc.
Due to the reasons for our formation, animosity existed between the BNA and QNA. However, following our formation, the BNA applied for affiliation with the Queensland Netball Association on 29 February 1972. Sadly, the Queensland Netball Association saw our new association as a threat. They refused to accept our application to affiliate under their right to veto without reason. Subsequent negotiations revealed that the name of our Association and our acceptance of men as members were insurmountable hurdles. The QNA’s total opposition to the BNA was fierce and unrelenting. They used every available means and opportunity to preclude players (under a threat of expulsion), umpires and coaches from competing against or being involved with our Association. Even though this bitter animosity continued the BNA tried to negotiate with the QNA until 1985. Despite appeals to the All Australia Netball Association, the State and Federal Governments and subsequent meetings under the mediation of numerous sports administrators, our Patron, Terry Gygar, the Federal Government’s Sports Commission and Dr Ian Jobling, nothing changed.
Like most ‘bans’ it had the reverse effect and only gave greater resolve to our members. One appeal letter to AANA was inadvertently delivered to Jim Manson in Tasmania who convened an independent netball organization called Tasmanian AYC. As a result a strong liaison was established with an interstate competition being established in 1977.
Despite the QNA’s ‘bans’ BNA members were enthusiastic travelers and many intrastate and interstate competitions were established. Additionally two international tours were organized to South Africa as well as tours to Fiji and Hawaii.
The Brisbane Netball Association’s affiliation with the QNA was instigated by the then President of the QNA, Michele Buck, who approached the BNA and invited our affiliation.
It is no doubt ironical that those 23 years of independence caused the association to be a close knit community – the more the QNA threatened and imposed bans, the stronger and more determined members became. Above all, their enthusiasm made them unstoppable. This enthusiasm enhanced a progressive administration which has continued throughout the BNA’s history. Additionally our association was also most fortunate in that it started with a ‘clean slate’. All too often comparable associations inherit the faults and limitation of former administrations and this helped to make the BNA a unique organization.
Undoubtedly the BNA forced widespread changes to netball in Queensland. Its successful existence brought about the decentralizing of netball in Brisbane and an expectation that players were entitled to first class facilities. Their innovative administration and development programmes set standards which other associations were forced to follow.
Life Members, Sandra Bates, Joan Butler, Lorraine Decker and Irene Timothy sum up their memories of those formative years…
Sandra Bates (Awarded Life Membership in 1986):
I remember the many late hours compiling the first BNA Constitution which came from various sporting associations and clubs (i.e. golf, swimming, cricket and tennis to name a few). I admit I never knew anything about constitutions at that time but soon learnt.
As Head Games Convenor, after grading nights, I would work next day on the fixture draw at my dining room table at my Banyo home. When I finished the draw for one or two grades I would phone Marilyn Williams (who was BNA secretary at the time and School secretary at Nudgee State School), and we developed a relay and juggling system between work. She would collect the draws, type them up and return them to me for checking, then pick them up again to print them and return to me after work for collation. Marilyn’s effort was exceptional.
My dining room table also featured in the design of the Association’s badge and emblem. When an open competition didn’t produce an acceptable design, my husband John, Marilyn and I evolved the current design over a few bottles of wine.
They were happy days.
Joan Butler (Awarded Life Membership in 1986):
Looking back over 30 years I have seen many changes to both the playing conditions, administration, rules of the game and umpiring.
I first found out that the BNA had formed when a friend of mine asked me if I would like to play with a group of ‘old girls’, so Redcliffe Club was formed and we played at Virginia on grass courts in the Association’s first Summer Season in 1971/72.
In the Summer Season of 1973/74 at Bradbury Park, I had the audacity to put in a complaint to the Executive when they gave our team a 20 goal handicap. I might say we did not win the argument or the ‘final’ that year, but we came back to play for many more seasons. It was then that I was asked to join the Executive so I could have a voice on the Committee. In 1974 I was elected as an Umpires’ Convenor, a position I held for 2 years before being elected as Treasurer, a position I have held to this day.
Over the years there have been many good time and many friendships have been made. But with the good times come the sad – these having been the loss of three of our young representative players in tragic circumstances. Firstly, Tracey Meiers was killed in a trail bike accident at 17 years old; Margaret Josko was killed in a car accident when she was 18 years old and Ken Schoenwald in another car accident at the age of 23.
Lorraine Decker (Awarded Life Membership in 1981)
I’ve never questioned ‘why’. It was everything – stimulating, challenging, satisfying, sheer fun and at times a real character builder – and I loved every minute of it!
We were all so focused and enthusiastic it was euphoric. I still feel a surge of enthusiasm whenever I hear the possibility of a new development at the Association.
The camaraderie, socializing and humour were wonderful and I rate them on a par with the satisfaction I experienced of realizing my dream.
These years played a very important role in my personal development and gave me life skills for which I am grateful.
Thank you BNA.
Irene Timothy (Awarded Life Membership in 1986):
Hard work was the order of the day and we all worked to ensure that our combined dream would be fulfilled. There was nothing we would not have done to ensure that everything we wanted to inaugurate would be done.
The fixture draws and booklets were just as hard as being a brickie’s labourer!
When I receive the Annual Report each year I look back and say ‘Hell we really did a great job!’
For when the One Great scorer comes
To write against your name
He marks – not what you’ve won or lost –
But how you played the game
Sir S Rice