Sahara ready to play Ball and make the name her own

NETBALL is a way of life for many players. The commitment to training, going all in when match day comes, and all the hours driving to and from the courts.

The home of netball in Victoria is the Melbourne Sports Centre located in Parkville. Players come from all over the state to showcase their talent in front of elite level coaches and veterans of the sport.

Since the inception of the Victorian Netball League (VNL) in 2008, generational athletes have emerged to take that step further up the Netball Victoria pathway.

Netball runs through Sahara Ball’s veins coming from a dynasty within the sport. Her aunty Bec Bulley was one of the cleanest defenders in Australian netball and is currently the head coach of the Queensland Firebirds.

Her decorated career spans across 42 games for the Diamonds winning a Netball World Cup gold medal in 2015 and a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. She also won three ANZ Championships with the NSW Swifts (2008), Adelaide Thunderbirds (2013) and Queensland Firebirds (2015).

Ball with her aunty Bec Bulley after the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney (Image: Supplied)

Sahara wants to turn the narrative and make the Ball name her own.

Ball and her three younger siblings never had a dull moment growing up, constantly being surrounded by sport.

“We just love being around friends and family, and I think that’s what helps me be the person I am,” she told Rookie Me Central.

“Looking up to my parents and my aunties and uncles, they’re such good role models for me.”

Ball’s first taste of netball was because her whole family played it. She grew up in the system so netball seemed like second nature to the 16-year-old.

Keeping up with the netball lifestyle is difficult though, having to miss out on some social commitments, but the support from Ball’s family makes balancing her life better.

“Sometimes you might have to miss out on things due to sporting commitments,” she said.

“But I think I have a good balance where I do schedule those things and make sure that’s important.”

The drive to go to netball certainly helps having great coaches and a support net behind you. Along her journey, Ball said all her coaches have been superb in her development and treating the team like a family.

“I’ve never had a bad coach, everyone’s always been really supportive.”

Ball winning a premiership with her local club Strathmore (Image: Supplied)

Without the coaches as a backbone, Ball would not have progressed up the Netball Victoria pathway at a rapid pace. Beginning her journey with Strathmore Netball Club alongside close friends, Ball has accumulated several dresses for her wardrobe.

The drives to Parkville continued as she was selected in the Parkville representative programme at under 11s. Ball took a quick hiatus from the side still being young, but she quickly returned as a bottom age under 15s player. She was then selected into the Central West Academy where she credits most of her development to.

She was one of 76 players talent identified at the association championships in 2022 where she was ultimately selected in the Central West academy.

In the meantime, Ball represented the Jika region as a top age player in their under 15s state titles side. She also competed in association championships in what was her first big tournament with Parkville rep.

Parkville quickly became a second home travelling there a lot more being a part of Melbourne University Lightning’s development programme. She was a part of their Bolts 1 side but featured in some of their under 19s VNL games.

Ball followed in her mum’s footsteps, playing for the same club her mum Meredith played for in the Lightning’s inaugural Championship team in 2009. Melbourne University have since named their Championship division MVP award in Meredith’s honour.

Ball shooting a goal playing under 17s for Victoria in 2023 (Image: Supplied)

To top it all off, Ball is a multi-time representative of Victoria, wearing the navy blue dress in under 17s in both 2023 and 2024. Ball highlighted making the state team both years as her biggest achievement so far in sport.

“It was so exciting, and it just showed my hard work and always wanting to be better and be a better player,” she said.

“You can show your success and show that hard work and always wanting to improve. “In order to be better, I have to go to the next level.”

Bal’s new journey over at Boroondara Express now entails being part of their under 23s side for the 2024 VNL season.

The aim of the new season for Ball is to build upon those relationships and work on the combinations to become the inaugural under 23s premiers. 

“I’m really excited because I get to be around these experienced players and coaches for me to improve,” she said.

“Them being role models for me is going to help me become better and look up to them.”

Ball (right) winning a premiership with the Lightning in 2023 with their under 19s VNL side (Image: Supplied)

The young goaler described being part of the new team as a privilege, trying to get all the hard work done now in pre-season before the season commences right around the corner.

Even though Ball is not fussed whether she starts games or becomes an impact player on the bench, she’s just grateful to be able to play the game she loves after a tough 2020/21 campaign.

“I took for granted how much I loved the game, and after COVID it made me realise how much I love the game,” she said.

“Not only just the game, but the friendships I have and the culture.”

Ball’s future netball plans are to continue representing Victoria and proudly be a part of the Boroondara family.

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