Bentley ready to drive her career forward

THE opportunity to be a part of an inaugural team at the Melton-based Western Warriors. Who would give up that chance?

Iris Bentley didn’t and quickly jumped on the bandwagon to join their Under 23s side.

Bentley has moved from the Casey Demons to the newly established Western Warriors in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) to be a part of something special. Just one month into pre-season, Bentley is already achieving things she never thought she would amongst some big names.

“(Casey) really pushed me through that pathway, playing in Under 19s, getting opportunities on the champ bench,” she told Rookie Me Central.

“The fact that it’s a new club, helping to build that club, and Kim Borger’s over there, some of the like names they’ve got in the coaching panels are really exciting.

“When I was tossing up between staying at Demons or going to Western, I think it was just the idea of pushing myself to do something new.

“That’s why I play netball is to push myself and become a better person and learn new things.”

Bentley injured her ankle during the 2022 season and played on the fracture unknowingly. To give time to rehab the injury, she got dropped but returned back to the court while managing the pain.

“I actually ended up fracturing my ankle halfway through the season, which we didn’t realise was fractured,” she said.

“I played on it until the end of the year.”

Bentley playing Division One for the Demons against Boroondara Express (Image: Iris Bentley/Instagram)

When she returned to the court, she was placed in the Demons developmental side. Hard work paid off though as Bentley was quickly elevated into their VNL Division One side as a starter heading into the end of the season.

But there was more.

In the Demons last home and away game in Round 16, Bentley got a call up into the Championship side as an injury replacement player.

“I remember getting the text from Trav [Travis Pretty], the Div One coach, and being like, ‘hey, Champ wants you on the bench’,” she said.

“For as long as I can remember when people used to say to me, what do you want to achieve in netball? I would always be like, well, I want to play Champ.”

Bentley credits a lot of her development to both Darebin Netball Association and Bianca Chatfield’s netball academy in partnership with Victoria University.

The academy gave Bentley the confidence to go out and trial for VNL clubs seeing others amongst the group going out and getting signed.

“Those were the years where I’ve started to be like, Oh, like, I really enjoy working hard at this and I’m getting better and I could see myself pushing further,” she said.

“Being in Vic Uni and seeing those girls starting to get picked up by VNL clubs and you were like, hold on, I’m training with those girls.”

Bentley took part of Chatfield’s program for a couple of years before being picked up in Boroondara Express’ development squad in 2021. Casey went on to give Bentley her big break, signing her first VNL contract in their Under 19s squad.

The initial step into the VNL environment was a big one for Bentley, struggling to manage the load but was grateful to be lining up against and with some brilliant Victorian talent.

“I just remember coming home from training and being like, ‘I did running with this champ girl’, or ‘this training partner was there’, just being like, ‘oh my god’,” she said.

“It was definitely a step up from anything I’d experienced and I definitely struggled with it physically.”

Bentley playing her first year with the Demons against the North East Blaze (Image: Iris Bentley/Instagram)

Bentley started playing netball at 11-years-old because her sister Esther was playing. Born in England, the Bentley family moved to Melbourne at a young age.

“I remember I used to have to go to training after school with her. I used to sit on the sideline,” Iris said.

“The coaches would try and get me to join. And I’m like, nah, I’m not doing it. I don’t want to be on court.

“I was absolutely terrified. But they pushed me into that. My sister likes to claim that she was the start of it all.”

Eventually, Iris came to terms with the sport and started playing at Parklands Netball Club as part of Darebin’s competition. She was then asked to trial for their representative side.

Every player who trialled for Darebin that year made it into a team. That’s how small the association was at the time.

The defender continued to play at a representative level until Under 17s and got Talent ID’d for a Talent Academy during her Under 15s period but didn’t make the final squad. She went on to be selected in the Victoria Under 19 squad of 50 in 2021 and 2022 but was unable to attend further trials due to her injury.

The 19-year-old plays alongside best friend Bella Collodetti with the Bundoora Bulls in the Northern Football Netball League and they are inseparable. Collodetti is a part of Melbourne University’s development side and a former Ariels player so she understands the commitment needed to pursue a high level of sport.

“None of my friends from school or anything are sporty, but they all support it and like, will come along to games when they can and get around me,” she said.

The running joke in the house is that Bentley spends more time with Collodetti than at home.

Bentley and Collodetti playing together for the Bundoora Bulls (Image: Bella Collodetti/Instagram)

Bentley is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts majoring in political and international studies. She has found a way to connect her love of netball and her studies through her idol of Jo Weston. Weston is the Australian Netball Players Association President (ANPA) who was leading the pay dispute on behalf of the ANPA.

“I think that’s so awesome to see players taking the future into their own hands and also having more talents than just netball,” Bentley said.

“That’s something I pride myself on is that I study, and I coach and I do other things outside of netball.”

Even though Bentley’s signed as an Under 23 player with the Warriors, she has already set the goal for herself to debut and make waves in the Championship division. Her priority though is enjoying the game while she still can.

“Especially with being injured, I had a few parts over the last two years where I wasn’t enjoying (netball). So I think for me, it’s just continuing to enjoy it,” she said.

“Definitely establishing myself in champ. I want to be a player that’s known. I want to be known, as a defender in champ, as a hustler in champ.”

For now, Bentley’s focus is on her netball career, but she wants to know there’s a life after netball.

When her playing career comes to an end, Bentley wants to pursue netball coaching to give back to the clubs that helped her develop her own game. Currently coaching for Darebin, Bentley wants to give back to the pathway that brought her through the ranks.

“One of the things that I’ve probably heard different from a lot of other girls is that there weren’t a lot of Darebin girls that had gone through the Netball Vic pathway or gone through the VNL pathway,” she said.

“You learn so much when you’re watching a game of netball, even if you’re not playing it.”

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