West Coast Men’s & Mixed Netball Association was officially ‘reborn’ in 2015 following a cameo appearance of a Men’s Open team in 2014 at the Australian Men’s & Mixed Netball Championships. Buy-in from key stakeholders in terms of committee members (Paula Mill, Justin Barnes, Jerome Gillbard, Tapiwa Mzungu, Darryllea King and Boyd Berryman) and players (Boyd Berryman, Dylan McPherson, Jessica Macer, Laura Jenour, Tapiwa Mzungu, Griff Thomas, Stewart Burton and Jason Heard) opened the door for the association and allowed us to send athletes to compete in the 2015 AMMNA championships. In the time since then, we have grown from a mere 2 teams all the way to our current 6 teams. Continual expansion of our state program to encompass professionals from different sectors to improve the elite nature of our environment. Read below to explore our past teams and the development we have achieved in each year.
The 2015 WA squad consisted of two teams that competed at the championships, Mixed Reserve and 23&U men's (see squad photo below). It was a dream re-birth for the WA squads, taking out the Mixed Reserve division and runners up for 23&U. However small our squad, the work ethic, family value and skill of Western Australia was abundantly evident in our first year. One can’t go past 2015 without a quick mention of the accommodation we stayed in that year. Ask any of the athletes or staff (poor Sheldon) about how it was and you will be met with jokes and laughter and maybe even a few tears, but it really was a “bonding experience” to say the least. Safe to say, we have definitely upgraded our accommodation options (see photos below).
2015 Photo credit: Powershots Photography
2015 Accommodation (one to forget):
It was going to be tough to back up 2015 success, but we looked to return in 2016 and further our development and success. Most of our 23&U athletes were too old for that division, meaning they progressed into the Men’s Open division. A learning curve to say the least that has set them up for the years ahead. That year they did not win a game, but came away with key experience and specific areas for development (watch our 2017). Our Mixed team played Mixed reserve again, after having a number of athletes depart and new faces come into the squad going back to back was going to be tough. Whilst team success evaded the West, an abundance of individual accolades (which you can see on our AMMNA awards page here) showed that we were on the right track and tweaking a few areas would lead to great results!
2016 Photo credit: Powershots Photography
2017 was a special year for the West, growing in numbers from two to three teams – thanks to the effort of our tirelessly working committee. We sent a Men’s Open and Reserve as well as our mixed team moving up into the Open division. An exciting time for our squad with the growth in both numbers and quality of athletes arriving at our trials and being selected in our teams. Whilst team success again evaded us, we pushed deeper into finals series’ and our Men’s Open team recorded their first two wins (an emotional time for them all). Much like our previous squads, we were blessed with the athletes and the culture garnered within the West. The family atmosphere and squad support was of much discussion from different state athletes and the further development of both our individuals and teams meant that opposition coaches were keeping a keen eye on our teams!
2017 Photo credit: Powershots Photography
2018 again saw further growth across our squad. Increasing from three to four teams and continuing to grow our member base, fans, support and professionalism that drives us in the West. We sent Men’s Open and Reserve and Mixed Open and Reserve teams to compete at the championships – the most numbers we had ever seen at trials and we were really excited from early on as to what the season would bring.
2018 saw the introduction of the Bingham Cup pre-season competition between South Australia and Western Australia. The competition was a chance for the states to test their Men's & Mixed Open teams in the lead up to the AMMNA championships, look at combinations and see where the gaps in development were so coaches and players knew exactly what was required for the final push to the championships. The competition also gave both states a chance to celebrate the life and long-term commitment of Bruce Bingham to Men’s Netball in WA.
Bruce was a pioneer in the Men’s netball scene and gave countless hours year after year to drive the Men’s netball product and work towards recognition and support within the state and across the country. Sadly, early in 2018 Bruce passed away. The Bingham Cup is a way for athletes to pay homage to Bruce and show their absolute appreciation for all of his work that got us to where we are today. WA won the Bingham cup in 2018.
Again, furthering our development across all four teams – we pushed the “big three” states (Vic, NSW and QLD) further and further into games, but unable to overcome them in our finals series. Speaking to a number of Men’s Open athletes from that year, the semi-final against Victoria has been spoken about as the best netball game they have ever seen or been part of and one that you all should definitely watch if you can find footage! A hard fought, highly skilled game that went goal for goal for the best part of 60 minutes. An unfortunate missed opportunity by WA within the last few minutes, met with a quick conversion by Victoria saw them steal our Thunder and progress to the next round of finals.Though a devastating result on our part, the game showed West Australians (and in particular those Men’s Open players) that they can keep up and cut it with the best, look out 2019!
2018 Photo credit: Powershots Photography
Our numbers held firm in 2019, but saw the reintroduction of a 23&U team (the first since 2015). A huge step forward for the growth of the association, developing the youth of our sport is vital to the future of the game and longevity of Men’s netball. A tonne of work was put in to getting a ‘junior’ team. Developing the Boy’s/Men’s pathway here in the West was finally starting to pay off. Again, sending Open Men’s & Mixed, Mixed Reserve and the 23&U was exciting for our squad, all teams pushed deep into their respective finals series and numerous individual accolades from the week showed that we are on the right track and we just need to keep chipping away at different areas of our game across each team to win that coveted title at the end of the week. Excitingly, WA retained the Bingham cup after a trip to Adelaide late in 2018 winning both the Open Men’s & Mixed games against SA. Our Men’s Open team also finally cracked championship wins against two of the ‘big 3’ (prior to 2019 we had only beaten South Australia), winning round games against both Victoria and Queensland (who won the championship). Each team showed great depth and experience, with many of our athletes returning year after year, combinations within teams and relationships across the squad further developed. What would 2020 hold, no-one knew (literally).
2019 Photo credit: Clusterpix Photography
In 2020, we saw the biggest leap in potential, dramatically increased numbers across our trials afforded the cultivation of six (yes 6) teams to compete at the AMMNA championships. Furthermore, the quality and depth of our athletes and teams continue to flourish. More importantly we gathered our first ever 17&U team (since our re-birth), based mostly of younger athletes, we hope can retain and develop over the coming years. The introduction of a squad camp, performance psychology and strength & conditioning component looked to improve our program, its professionalism and success at the AMMNA championships. Our squad was looking strong and ready in the buildup and it was an exciting time to be part of the ‘West Coast Thunder’ family… COVID hit and postponed our hope of a 6 team championships trip and any success that was to come. Luckily, we have 2021 to look forward to, and that means another 6 months of squad training to fine tune specifics. Looking forward to Adelaide 2021!