By Justin Flynn
Paula Birch’s legacy on the Ocean Grove Football Netball Club will be long-lasting.
Birch will play her 350th senior netball game for Ocean Grove against Drysdale tomorrow after starting out with the club’s juniors 30 years ago.
She played her first senior game in 2000 in C Grade as a 17-year-old and has played in three premierships.
Birch has won six best and fairest and runner-up awards and five coaches awards as well as becoming a club life member in 2011.
Her career also includes two premierships at junior level.
She plans to keep playing “as long as these old bones will let me”.
“There’s no real goal – 400 games would be nice but that is another three seasons away and I’m not sure I’ve got it in me,” Birch said.
She credits “teamwork” as the one life lesson that netball has taught her.
“You can’t get very far without people supporting you and you supporting them,” she said.
“It’s crucial on the netball court and in life. I have also learned that things rarely work out how you think they will, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but it’s all part of the game.”
Birch jokingly said that her advice to any young person thinking about taking up the sport was “don’t do it, it will consume your life”.
“No, seriously, I can’t recommend it enough,” she said.
“Not only do you learn about teamwork and communication as well as getting in some fitness, you also make the best friends you will ever make in your life.
“Being out on court with your mates, and sometimes family, is the best feeling.”
Birch said she has loved seeing the club grow into the professional unit it is now.
“The netball side is a well-oiled machine full of volunteers who live and breathe the sport and have moved the club forward in leaps and bounds,” she said.
“From the old asphalt courts at Draper Street to the smoother surfaces we have now and the beat up old shack that we used to call the clubrooms to the new facilities.
“Don’t get me wrong, I loved that old shack, it was home to a lot of late night selection meetings, committee meetings in the searing heat, and pre-game pump up dance parties, but it doesn’t really compare to what we have now.”