Tully’s terrific tales into paving her own way

IT is a game of perseverance. Challenging yourself and striving to achieve greatness. Going from never playing the game five years ago to now taking Victorian underage netball by storm.

Wiradjuri woman Tully Bethune had no clue about netball until only a few years ago and she quickly found people to look up to. Two notable figures for her are Melbourne University Lightning’s Gabby Coffey and Queensland Firebirds’ Donnell Wallam who has had a notable career so far in the spotlight.

“You want to make those people around you proud, and you see what they’re doing, they are amazing, strong people. You see Donnell Wallam going up through the ranks and where she is now, and you look at her and you’re like, you are such an amazing woman,” she told Rookie Me Central.

“All the things she’s done, all those things she’s encountered throughout netball and just daily life, it makes me want to do that, and I want to put out awareness, positive impacts, and I just want to make all netball around the world, or even just, even in like Birregurra, my little community.

“A space for especially Indigenous people to be like, ‘yep, I want to do this. I want to be like her. I want to be someone as an Indigenous woman that people can look up to’ and go, she did that type of thing.”

The moment when she knew netball was her calling is when she received the email of her under 15s state selection. Bethune is glad to have spent that moment with her dad who did nothing but support her along the way.

“Getting the email that I made the state team, I for sure had so many doubts that I wasn’t going to make it in. I got the email and I was in the car with my dad. I just started bawling,” she said.

“It’s finally happened, all this hard work, all these hours in the car, these training sessions and I’ve finally done it. It was just like a really proud moment for myself.”

Bethune playing under 17s state for Victoria (Image credit: Celina Whan)

Bethune did not play the first game in Darwin, but stepping out on court for the second, her heart was beating out of her chest.

It was n’ot the court time that caught Bethune’s eye, it was meeting girls from all over Australia. Getting the feeling of disbelief stepping out on the wooden floorboards, not believing you have actually made it.

Her standout performance at the National Netball Championships (NNC) earnt herself selection into the Australia under 17s squad, but it was not the reaction many would have expected.

Bethune was at her friend’s house in Lorne alongside friend, schoolmate and Cougars teammate Charli Hoey when her mum decided to call her. She told Tully not to freak out, and let her know of the big news.

“I was just like, what does that mean?” Bethune said.

Her mum went on to explain it’s the Australian squad amongst 50 or odd girls going on a five day camp to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). This is when it started to kick in.

After the national camp, Bethune got another email letting her know she had been categorised. Having never heard the term, she called the head coach at her Victorian Netball League club the Geelong Cougars Gerard Murphy.

Still confused on what the email meant, Bethune and her mum kept on looking at each other with a dazed look in their eyes. It wasn’t until Murphy said Bethune had been categorised into the Victorian Institute of Sport.

The Bethune household was taken over with excitement.

Bethune (left) in AUS camp (Image credit: Netball Victoria)

Twenty twenty-three was a big year for Bethune. Playing state, going on a nationals camp and balancing outside commitments, it became a lot to handle. Bethune went from having a free life in a small town to constantly travelling in a jam packed schedule.

She had gone from having three or four training sessions a week to six or seven.

“It’s never not going to be overwhelming when you have all this stuff, but I think if you enjoy it and love it enough and are able to reassure yourself and have those people around you be like, this is why you love it. You do it for these reasons,” Bethune said.

“I do it for my mum, I do it for my coaches, I do it for my friends, I do it for my teammates especially, but you know, you get through it and in the end, you get through the end of the week and you’re like, it was a long week, but I enjoyed every second of it.”

The hustle was worth it in the long run having been named joint Under 19s MVP for the Geelong Cougars last season and debuted for the now disbanded Division One side in Round 15.

Bethune (left) after her Division One debut with the Geelong Cougars (Image credit: Geelong Netball Club)

Joining from the developmental side the Geelong Flyers when she was 15 years-old, Bethune goes into this season as one of the Cougars youngest players in their Under 23s team.

“There’s a big difference there and I had no strength in me. I was quite a twig and that’s when I started gym work. It was very different, but at the same time, it was a very smooth transition. Mel Savage and Gerard Murphy, I think they made it really quite easy to find that transition into it,” Bethune said.

The transition into the VNL environment was a bit of a smooth one for Bethune having risen through the Geelong ranks. It also helped knowing two of the players already.

“Having coaches who knew where you’re standing, what level you’re at, and how to get you to that level and what they need you to do makes it a lot easier on yourself and makes it a lot easier to go from A to B,” Bethune said.

Bethune hails from a town near Colac called Birregurra, ‘Birre’ for short. She appreciates the freedom her parents gave her as a child, allowing her to have an enjoyable childhood.

“Birre’s such a small town that everyone knows everyone and it’s really quite a family environment. From there you become good friends with your neighbours,” Bethune said.

“Because it’s such a small town, you can really ride anywhere you want. I had a very free childhood. I think if you look now, a lot of children don’t, because society’s changed a lot.

“But I think I’m quite lucky to be able to grow up in such a close environment with everyone around me. I was able to go out on the weekends with my friends and ride around town or go over to the neighbour’s house to the pool or on the weekends your neighbours come over and you have a barbecue.”

Bethune playing for her local club Birregurra (Image credit: Tully Bethune/Instagram)

After moving from Colac to Birre when she was 13 years-old, Bethune joined the Birregurra Football and Netball Club in the Colac District Football Netball League (CDFNL) where she started to take her talents more seriously. She has now signed with Torquay Netball Club in the AFL Barwon Football Netball League for the next season.

Initially a dancer, Bethune’s mum placed her in netball, not in Tully’s favour. But then she started to meet people at her local club and began to enjoy the game of netball.

“It’s a very joined community and I think being able to go to training on Thursday nights, even though they’re just an hour, and being able to look forward to it because you know the people there, you’re gonna have fun. Over time I just got really connected to that environment of friends and family,” Bethune said. 

Karen Hart was my first netball coach. She’s the one who taught me how to catch a ball, because my nickname was Butterfingers.

“It (netball) also opens you up as a person, being able to be open with yourself, learning how to reflect on things when things go wrong and go, this is how I’m going to fix it, all that sort of stuff. The environment is probably the thing that attracted me to the sport most. From there, my love for the game really developed.”

Bethune is the youngest of three living with her mum, dad, and two older brothers ages 19 and 22. Her mum means everything to Bethune, being her Uber and wanting to grow up to be as good of a character as her.

“If she wants something, she’ll do it. During COVID, she’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I want to do nursing’. So she goes, she’s done it, she’s now a fully qualified nurse,” 

“Then she was like, ‘Oh, I kind of want to see what would happen in the prison system’. Now she works in the prison system. Now she’s like, ‘Oh, I want to be a nurse in the prison system’ and she’s doing the things to get there.”

“If she sets her mind to something and she wants something, she’ll put in the effort to go get it.”

Bethune (left) after her first game for the 2024 VNL season (Image credit: Elisa Hally/Instagram)

Bethune admires her mum’s grit, determination and love for whatever she’d be doing and wants to reflect her life values similar to how her mums lives her life.

The six foot five shooter described herself as a very active person, unable to sit down for a long period of time. To get herself out on the move, Bethune wants to go into the police force to constantly be on the move as no one will ever see her sitting down for hours on end.

No matter what, Bethune wants to be around people. If the police force doesn’t turn out to what she intends, Bethune would like to be involved in childcare, getting to look after young children.

For now, the 17 year-old is completing her final year of studies at Geelong Grammar while aiming for selection into the Vixens Academy and a position in the Vic Fury in the Australian National Championships (ANC).

“From there I can develop myself even more, but not just in netball, so as a person around those, especially more mature girls, and those girls in there have absolutely amazing gameplay and knowledge about the game and just everything,” Bethune said.

“They’ve done it, they’ve gone through everything I’ve gone through and they’re at that higher point and I hopefully make it there.”

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