Chloe Watson will miss the remainder of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball season after announcing today that she is expecting her first child with fiancé, Kurt.
Renae Ingles, who took time off from netball three years ago to give birth to her twins Milla and Jacob, will sign on as a permanent replacement player in Chloe's absence.
As thrilled as Chloe Watson is by the prospect of impending motherhood, sharing the news with her Vixens teammates naturally triggered some bittersweet emotions among the close-knit playing group.
“There were definitely a few little tears, but I kind of expected that,’’ Watson says. “It was tough to sit there and say that I can’t finish the season that I started with them, but they’ve been fantastic.
“I obviously told Simone first, and the girls at different times and then got to address the group altogether last week, and I’m so grateful and thankful for their support.
“For them, in the same way that it is for me, it’s a time full of mixed emotions that I have to finish up with the Vixens for now. But I’m extremely excited for the journey of motherhood and everything that's ahead and they’re equally excited for me, which is really, really cool.’’
Having missed the past two away games due to injury/illness, Watson acknowledges the symbolism in the fact that her now-permanent replacement, Renae Ingles, is one of just a handful of women who have returned after parental leave to Suncorp Super Netball.
“I touched base with Renae pretty early on in the piece and just said that the world works in funny ways for both of us,’’ the 24-year-old says. “She probably finished a little bit before she was ready, and now the opportunity is here to be back with Vixens, which I know she’s thrilled with.
“An opportunity to join our club doesn’t present itself every day, so it’s super-cool for her to be back in Vixens’ colours and I guess somewhat ironic.
“How fortunate circumstances have it that someone like Renae is ready and fit to jump into the team. And to also have Khao (Watts), who’s done a solid job in filling the wing defence spot the last couple of weeks, means there’s no shortage of people to step right up and take over straight away, which is great for Vixens going forward.’’
McKinnis had predicted a breakout SSN competition for the fourth-year defender after a brilliant pre-season. Instead, there will be a pause following the 35 games logged since her 2015 debut.
“Chloe’s come a long way along the journey with us,’’ McKinnis said. “The netball side of things, we look after that, we move on. This is a life event and I’m so excited for her because I know how much it means to her.’’
For Watson, it has been a self-described "roller-coaster" couple of months. "Kurt’s been the biggest and best supporter, and our families as well, so it’s been tough trying to deal with everything going on off the court and trying to do everything that I could while still contributing my best to the Vixens for as long as I could.’’
The popular mum-to-be remains indebted to McKinnis for taking the chance on her 20-year-old self, and giving her the chance to play with and against some of the world’s finest players as well as beside some of her closest friends.
It has been 12 years since she first shared a junior team with the other Watson, Lizzie, and there is a sadness to be leaving those with whom she has shared so much.
“It’s just been a dream come true and I’m so thankful to the Vixens and Netball Victoria for supporting me for my entire netball career,'' says Watson. "Going forward I couldn’t wish them anything but the best because it’s just been the best club to be a part of, and whether or not I wear the colours again it’s been a very very special part of my life.’’
As to whether she will return, Watson is happily non-committal.
“I would never say never, but for the next little period of my life I think I’ll be happy to focus on being a mum and enjoying that little journey,’’ she smiles. “So never say never, but one thing at a time.’’
By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.