Netball World Cup Special: Liz Watson


Success comes naturally to Liz Watson.

She may only be 25 but already the Australian netball star has experienced plenty of it in her sporting career.

Her cabinet currently boasts three Netball Quad Series golds and a Commonwealth Games silver with the Samsung Diamonds as well as an ANZ Championship title secured with the Melbourne Vixens back in 2014.

Individually she’s also won a stack of awards too, including the prestigious Liz Ellis Diamond and Australian International Player of the Year accolades in 2018 as well as two Sharelle McMahon Medals for being the Vixens’ best and fairest player.

Watson will be hoping to add the 2019 Netball World Cup to that collection on 21 July and says that where she grew up has played a major part in developing such a competitive attitude.

“I’ve been so lucky to have grown up in Victoria, it’s such a good netball state,” the Diamonds’ vice-captain explained.

“Right from your junior days you get instilled into you that success and winning is part of the Victorian culture so you get this competitive nature right from the very start.”

It’s not just her external environment that has made Watson so good but the people who surround her too.

Her uncle is Steve Alessio, who appeared in 182 AFL games for Essendon, while one of her older brothers Matthew also played for Carlton between 2011-2015.

And while they may have helped instil that edge needed to make the cut as a professional athlete, Watson puts much of her success down to the love, care and support she’s received from her entire unit of family and friends, especially her parents.

“They travelled over the Liverpool when I debuted for my country a few years ago, they come to every Vixens game, they try and get to away ones as well,” Watson said of her mum and dad.

“They’re always there supporting and even if they can’t be there’s a text, a phone call – there’s always that love and support there.

“That goes to my family and friends, my partner – everyone is just really proud and really happy of what I’m able to achieve and that makes me proud to see how much it connects them and how much they really love it. It makes you want to do really well.”

 

While they could all lay claim to being her biggest fan, Watson admits that accolade can only go to one person.

“My mum’s mum, my Nonna – she absolutely loves netball” Watson said.

“She comes to every Vixens home game that we have and she always says that if I can wear bright coloured shoes it makes it easier for her to spot who I am out on court because apparently we’re all blonde and tall and all look the same.

“She’ll be watching back home on TV and she’ll just be looking for bright shoes.

“I’ll have to probably get some brighter ones, I’m not sure my current blue ones are going to stand out!”

Not only are her family proud of what she’s achieved already on the court, they should also be proud of the person she is off it too.

Watson is a polite, friendly and firmly grounded individual who knows that she is in a position where she can inspire the next generation to take up sport, whether that be netball or another.

“I love going out to see the kids, share the knowledge and all my experience with them and hopefully they’ll either take up netball or continue playing netball or just sport in general,” she explained.

“We’re slowly losing sport with our young kids and I have that opportunity to use what I’ve done, the places I’ve gone and share my stories with them and hopefully inspire them to take up sport.

“It’s so important to give back and share what we’ve learned and encourage them to have their own opportunities and create their own stories.

“To see the excitement and joy on kids faces when they have one little interaction with you is great. You could be having the worst day or the worst game or be quite tired but to them that doesn’t matter, they just want to say ‘Hey’ and give you a high-five and it just brings you back down to earth and what’s real.

“We want to inspire our country and the next generation.”

This is something Watson will continue to do once her netball career is over too as she’s currently studying to become a primary school teacher.

However she does admit that every now and again it’s nice to not be recognised, although with netball’s growing popularity she also knows that may not be so easy.

“I actually tried to hide it on my placement and not let on that I’m a netballer but a few young girls in the Grade 1 class came up with some Vixen posters so once they’d had them signed the news travelled around the school,” she recalled.

“I’m probably more of a teacher in that sense but there are a few lovely little netball fans who recognise you and that’s a good thing as well.

“They’re probably more likely to listen to me. They probably get a different view on me as well if they’re misbehaving!

“It’s good for them to see I’m not just a netballer, I have other things in my life and do other things.

“I definitely have their attention at the start, it’s just how long I can keep it for!”

As for the World Cup itself, Watson is confident that the Diamonds can claim a fourth straight title and a 12th in total.

Yet despite knowing there’s a perfect opportunity to exact revenge on England for last year’s Commonwealth Games final, she says her team are only focusing on themselves and not letting anything else distract them.

“Our first goal is to get to the final. I don’t care who we’re playing – we just want to be in that final and win it,” she stated.

“It could be England, it could be New Zealand, it could be South Africa. There are so many good teams up there and we just want to get our squad into that final before we think about the opposition.

“It’s a very tough draw so we just want to make sure that we have that slot and whoever we play we know we can beat them.”

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