When speaking for just a few minutes with Netball SA President Graeme Gilbert, the passion he has for netball is as clear as day… and that’s before he discloses he has volunteered his time to the sport for more than 30 years.
Graeme’s commitment was recognised at the SA Sports Awards on Friday 24 November when he was named Volunteer of the Year.
“At first, I was quite shocked,” Graeme said. “But once it settled in, I was very humbled and proud.
Umpiring got the ball rolling for Graeme’s involvement in netball. Over the years he has continued to take on numerous volunteer roles, which include mentoring and assessing fellow umpires, and positions on the Netball SA Finance Committee and the State Premier Netball Competition’s umpire allocation panel.
In 2001 he joined the Netball SA Board and in 2009 was chosen as its President.
“I’ve been involved in the sport a long time and the sport has been very good to me,” he said.
“I volunteer my time to help make the sport prosper and to enable more people to be involved in the game, whether that is at a grassroots or elite level.”
Seeing netball being played all over the state, whether it’s at regional netball courts or at Priceline Stadium is the highlight for Graeme.
“I get a great deal of pride seeing how netball can bring people together. It’s fantastic to see netball at a country level and to see how the clubs operate.
“I also have great joy at being involved at the elite level. The 2010 and 2013 Adelaide Thunderbirds premierships were very special.
“Seeing the blood, sweat and tears that go into every season is quite mind-blowing, and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see and appreciate that if I wasn’t involved in the way I am.”
Since his umpiring days, Graeme said netball and Netball SA has changed considerably and for the good.
“There has been such growth in our organisation and there has been a definite shift in the way the sport is looked at; there is now a much larger appetite for corporates to be involved in the sport,” he said.
Looking ahead, in five years’ time Graeme would like to see the sport have the dollar resources that the AFL has.
“I’d love there to be TV rights to the SSN, so that we can fund the sport from the elite level to grassroots, instead of it being the other way.”
Netball SA thanks Graeme for his dedication to the sport.