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By Aimee Dawson

 

Whether it be because of her on-court brilliance, her leadership, her team-oriented attitude, her humble personality or her ability to overcome setbacks, Bianca Chatfield is a hero to many young netballers, myself included.

On court, I always admired Bianca’s ability to read the play, her vision down the court and her ability to lead and support her teammates.

Off the court, it was her determination to continuously improve, her confidence and the way she could always take positives from situations.

When I was younger, my mum would call me to the television whenever the Melbourne Phoenix would be playing, and would always say, ‘when you’re out on the court, do what Bianca does’.

Not many people get to say that they have met their childhood hero, but luckily for me, I can say I have.

When I was younger I waited outside the venue for an hour after games in the hopes of getting a photo with my favourite player.

Now as a reporter I have the privilege to chat to her after the games, still with the same excitement that I am actually interviewing my childhood hero.

At the end of the 2015 season the door will close on one of Australian netball’s most decorated careers, with Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield announcing this week her decision to retire from elite netball.

Chatfield said that she informed Melbourne Vixens coach, Simone McKinnis, of her intention to retire in December, and decided to announce her decision this week to relieve the pressure on the team.

“I’m obviously not playing full games anymore and I think it was important just to tell people that there is nothing going on other than we just want to get some other girls an opportunity out there on court to see what they can do,” Chatfield said.

“And I need to be realistic too, if I’m going to get through to the end of the season I need to look after my body so playing four quarters all the time, every game is probably not the best thing for me.”

Chatfield, 33, began her elite career at the age of 16 in 1999, and her career spanning 17 years at the top level has seen many accomplishments and accolades.

Playing a combined 238 National league games (Commonwealth Bank Trophy 133, ANZ Championship 105), Chatfield is the second-highest capped player, with only Catherine Cox ahead of her on 254.

Her 17 years of elite netball has seen her with four Melbourne Phoenix premierships; in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005; and two Melbourne Vixens premierships; 2009, and most recently, 2014.

Chatfield’s netball accomplishments continued through to the international level, being one of the youngest ever members of the Australian Diamonds at the age of 18, and being named in the Diamonds squad in just her second year of elite competition.

Chatfield called time on her international career with 59 test caps to her name after being a part of Australia’s 2014 gold medal winning side.

That same year she captained the Vixens’ to their second premiership of the competition.

“Last year really does stand out for me because of what I have been able to do into that year; the Commonwealth Games gold and also winning the premiership with the Vixens has been a huge year,” Chatfield said.

“But all the Phoenix premierships mean a lot to me too because the girls that were a part of that club back then just were incredible and they were the ones that showed me the way and I’ve tried to make sure that that’s what I passed down to the girls that are all in the Vixens now.”

After her final season ends, Chatfield will be continuing with her netball academy at Victoria University, and her online leadership program, the Ignition Project.

“I’d love to be involved in netball, I won’t go away forever but I’m not quite sure what that’s going to look like right now.”

“I think you can’t spend this much time involved in the sport and walk away completely.”

As for what Chatfield would like to be remembered for at the end of her career,

“I just want to be known most for just being a great team person.”