When Leanne Parkes joined the Vixens family this year, she did not anticipate that her first encounter as a member would consist of watching from afar on her couch every week and interacting with her fellow members and fans through online platforms.
Although Leanne never gave netball much thought in the past - having never played it at school or watched it on television - it was her sister who introduced her to the number one Australian team sport for women and girls.
“My sister, who is a big netball fan, she came over from the UK for a visit last year and at the top of her list was to go to a netball match because she follows not only the English League, but also the Australian and New Zealand ones as well,” Parkes said.
“I agreed to tag along and we were really fortunate to actually go and see two games; the first one was the Vixens verses Thunderbirds and then it was Magpies and Giants; the two home games, both Melbourne teams.
“I just didn’t realise how empowering the sport was to young girls until I got there, and I didn’t realise how big the sport actually was and how much they do, for not just the community but giving back to all the kids, and after I watched that I was hooked.”
It seems like many, Leanne was drawn to the Vixens by our very own Co-Captain, Kate Moloney, and her booming voice that motivates much more than the team out on court.
“I literally chose Melbourne Vixens because of Kate Moloney. I kept asking my sister ‘Who’s that girl with the really loud voice?’ [laughs].
“She just got my attention because she was loud but also because she is extremely passionate, clear with direction and just a great motivator to the team which is obviously all the great qualities you need to be a great Captain, and that’s probably where my girl crush started with Kate and that’s why I became a Vixens fan.”
Unfamiliar to the modern game and its rapid pace, Leanne was quick to learn the rules and immerse herself into her first home and away season.
“I’m still learning quite a lot about the game and it’s so fast paced that sometimes it’s really hard to keep up when you’re watching.
“The umpires do an amazing job, I kept saying to my sister ‘What was that for?’ and ‘What did they do there?’ and honestly literally from that very first game in Round 10 and because it was just so quick, I was so intrigued by it all that from then on I watched every game after that.
“We got the Netball App so when we weren’t at home and it wasn’t on Channel 9 we were able to watch it.
“We were even watching it in the Whitsundays - there was a game on while we were there.”
Leanne even went to the lengths of watching a game amidst a hen’s party just to get her netball fix.
“I had a hen’s party, which was lovely because it was in Bali, but it was right at the time of when the Prelim Finals were on, so there I was at one of the pool party clubs during the day logging onto my netball app watching it while all the girls were sitting around me having cocktails and I was going ‘Oh god’, [laughs] so it was quite an interesting end to the season.”
With an attachment to netball now well established, Leanne has now considered stepping out onto the court herself and taking up social netball.
“I have always been into sport, mainly swimming. I would have swum at what would have been a state level back in the UK.
“When we came over here, everyone is so active and out and about, so I started running. A few people from work, they play netball, and were trying to get me to play, but one of them did their ACL, and being the age that I am I just wasn’t sure it was really wise, getting into something where there’s every opportunity to get an injury and then essentially put me out of work and trying to sort the kids out and stuff, so I haven’t joined a club for that reason.”
Though Leanne has only attended a handful of games, her experience at a Vixens home game was particularly memorable and something she is itching to get back to.
“We were at the opposite end to the cheer squad but we had the best seats, they were literally the first tier up at the end of the court and the first seats at the barrier so we couldn’t have got better seats.”
“It was really, I don’t know how to explain it, so loud, and fast, and exciting, and there was just so much going on, even when there was down time there was still so much crowd participation and really rallying everybody up, so it was really great fun.”
Having signed up as a member only months before the coronavirus pandemic hit worldwide, the thought of reimbursement never crossed her mind.
“It was always going to be a long-term thing for me, it wasn’t going to be a short-term thing…[I’m] happy to be on board.”
“I’m obviously disappointed not to attend any games this year as a member, but my support is long term and unconditional; I’m just looking forward to the season starting and getting to watch the Vixens on the app or TV.”