When it comes to silverware Catherine Cox has just about everything - including a Melbourne Vixens championship - to her name, but her trophy cabinet recently grew. Last week Cox was named a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to netball over the years.
“It’s certainly a highlight in my career out of everything I’ve done, and there’s been a lot. It’s definitely one of, if not the most special things to happen,” she said.
A revered netballer with gold medals from the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 2007 and 2011 World Championships, Cox never shied away from success on the big stage whether it be at national or international level.
“I was pretty blessed, there was some really big netball moments - winning Comm Games and World Cups, and retiring with the Vixens with a fairytale finish, were probably three of the biggest things.”
But it wasn’t the accolades that stood head and shoulders above the rest for Cox, it was something much deeper.
“It was more about the people for me. The things that we used to get up to on tour and the mates that I made will be the things that are the lasting memories. Those are the things that are the most precious to me, not the wins.”
Starting her netball career back in 1997, Cox could never have imagined that her service to the sport ranging over 18 years would see her one day named a Member of the Order of Australia.
“No, never in a million years.
“Obviously there are people in and about the system that nominate you to start with so that’s nice. There are so many levels to that being approved which is more impressive, particularly because I’m surrounded by people with Orders of Australia, like Liz Ellis my great mate, and they’re just people I’ve got on a pedestal.
“To be considered in the same realm as them is just sort of mind-blowing to be honest. I played netball, I did it for fun, then it became a job and something I was kind of good at. To be recognised for something that I considered to be a really great period of my life was even more of a treat.”
To say Cox was taken by surprise was an understatement, with the former Australian Diamond and 2014 Vixens championship star commending the work of her fellow award winners, many of whom were frontline workers.
“It seems a little unfair when you think about some of the people that are doing all of these amazing things in the community, there’s a lot of frontline workers recognised for the fight against COVID this year, so I just feel really, really spoilt.”
Hailing from New Zealand, Cox highlighted how much this award meant not only to her but to her family, admitting that it “brought [her] mum and dad to tears”.
“Who would’ve thought the young Kiwi girl would ever end up receiving an Order of Australia for her career in netball and all the rest of it? It’s pretty mind-blowing stuff when you think about exactly where we came from, we became Aussies very, very quickly.”
A fierce competitor on the court, Cox continued to dedicate her life to netball even in retirement, diving into commentary and driving awareness of the sport to inspire the next generation of netballers across the country.
“I don’t forget about where the sport has come from.
“I was lucky enough to be part of that transition as well. We used to play at Anne Clark Netball Centre in Sydney, I think their capacity was about 500 people and it would mainly be family and friends. To go from there to being a professional athlete, I was lucky enough to jump on that bandwagon before I retired - it’s kind of crazy because I never thought that would happen in my career.”
The shift in the perception of netball is something that brings a smile to Cox’s face, with the goaler a key instigator during her playing days to get the sport recognised as an elite avenue for women.
“It’s nice to see the athletes now actually being renumerated for the effort that they have to put in because it is so much - we know, we’ve been there, we’ve done it all. So it’s good to see them rewarded and recognised as they should be as elite athletes.”
After 108 international tests and five domestic championships to her name, Cox has had a lasting impact on the netball community beyond the court. The new addition of AM after her name is testament to this contribution, as she constantly works to progress the sport and ensure that netball in Australia remains number one.
“I think the Australians will look to continuously raise the bar and the players will continue to improve and that’s always been the way. If you look back from where we’ve come from, to where we are now they will never stop doing that.”
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