Net gain for Borders teams as indoor sports continue comeback after Covid restrictions relaxed

With coronavirus at last on the retreat in the UK after almost two years, those involved in indoor sports such as netball are at last looking ahead with optimism to what they hope will be a much brighter future.

By Craig Goldthorp
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 8:53 am
Under-15s ace Eve Rathie showing amazing defensive skill in recent game against East Renfrewshire
Under-15s ace Eve Rathie showing amazing defensive skill in recent game against East Renfrewshire

A case in point is Borders District netball head coach Victoria Harburn, whose under-15 and under-17 sides – comprising 22 girls in total – have both been going well this season and currently sit second in their respective Scotland Central leagues, up and running since October.

Harburn, 45, of West Linton, revealed that the latest round of fixtures saw Borders District under-15s recover from a 38-22 loss at East Renfrewshire to beat Edinburgh 33-24 at Penicuik just 24 hours later.

There is everything to play for when the leagues resume on Sunday, February 13, as champions in the respective divisions will ultimately qualify for the finals at Edinburgh’s Oriam in May.

Borders District under-15s after a 72-2 win in Stirling over Forth Valley District

Helped by other coaches including Bryony Patterson, Carly Yule and ex-Scotland international player Jo Pettitt, now Peebles netball chairperson and head coach, a rigorous trial process last summer saw several girls recruited for the Borders District squad from as far afield as Duns, Berwick, Peebles, West Linton, Hawick and Innerleithen.

“Training girls that live so far apart hasn’t been easy as some girls have to travel for an hour and a half just to get to the venue,” social media marketing worker Harburn told the Southern Reporter.

“They come every week, though, and have bonded well in their teams.

“We are seeing that their commitment and hard work is now paying off against stiff competition. We hope to qualify in our group and go all the way to the finals.

Borders District netball under-17 team with coach Bryony Patterson

“There are girls in both our teams that will definitely end up playing for their country one day.

“They will be capped within the next two or three years because they’re really, really good.

“They are really athletic and really strong these girls and have a lot of grit and determination upstairs in their heads.

“A lot of them play other sports too and they’re at that kind of age where they’re having to decide what sports they want to play.

“It’s great that netball has come back because that is now an option for those girls.”

Although Borders District players had been able to train and participate in home games at the Gytes in Peebles – as well as away matches at venues around Scotland – Harburn was sympathetic to their parents’ disappointment at being unable to spectate due to Covid-19 restrictions only recently lifted.

Parents were not allowed to view, so when we played matches, they were quite quiet,” she said. “It was just the benches that you heard shouting from.

“It was a shame for the parents of the kids because they came along and they basically waited in the car-park for the kids to come out.

“It’s been horrible for parents not watching games live, but on the plus side at least the girls were playing again.

“They are getting their fitness back and the team aspect is really important as well.

“We are really looking forward to people being able to watch their kids play netball again like they do with football or other sports.”

With starting line-ups of seven players backed up by three substitutes, the Borders District girls have playing four 15-minute quarters in each match.

“It’s not a massive team so the girls have to be incredibly fit,” said Harburn.

“You’ve got shooters, you’ve got keepers and then you’ve got five people doing the mid-court stuff in between.

"It’s a game of speed, agility and ball skills. The stuff shouted out by football coaches at games is exactly what you hear netball coaches shouting, like ‘stick to your player’, ‘find space’ and ‘keep the ball low’.

“It’s like football in the air, that’s how I would describe it. It’s amazing to watch and high energy.

“It teaches the girls to be strong, independent, all the buzz words that are in right now.

“It’s how to be assertive but not go over that line, so it’s really good life skills it teaches and I love it. It’s fantastic for building confidence.”