Lin Smith a long serving Youth Club President hosted meetings at his home to help establish a Cronulla RSL Netball Club, although what we now know as Netball was then called Basketball. Cronulla RSL commenced in 1964 with 4 teams. The inaugural President was Hilda Pavitt with Joan Harwood taking on the tasks of Secretary and Treasurer. With the Club accepted into the Sutherland Shire Basketball Association Shirley Hennessy took over the role as Treasurer. The four coaches were Roslyn Antal, Megan Targett, Shirley Barker and future president Gwen Smith. The club had immediate success with the 13’s coached by Megan Targett winning the competition. The 15’s made the Semi-Finals and the 11’s were runners-up, a very successful start.
The establishment of any new activity (or the running of an existing one) is bound to have the occasional hiccup. With RSL it involved the delivery of the uniforms arriving just in time for day 1 at Seymour Shaw. At the time rules were very strict – tunics had to be exactly 9 inches above the knee. When the girls put their tunic on they found the length of the uniform closer to that of a ball gown than a netball uniform. Given the situation comments from officials that the hems needed to be raised were not well received. When it was necessary to find yellow polo shirts a simple and effective solution was found they were bought white and dyed yellow in committee members washing machines.
In the early years growth was rapid. In 1968 Cronulla RSL Netball boasted 27 teams. Of interest was the visit of the Jamaican Netball team that played an RSL team at Bellingara.
Over the years many girls have graduated from RSL to play representative netball. Noteworthy was the A1 team of 1983 in which every player had represented Sutherland except for Vicky Cleveland who had played for Randwick and NSW. Vicky Kerr who started with Cronulla RSL Physical Culture joined RSL Netball and went on to captain NSW. Vicky also coached the NSW Under 21 team for 9 years winning 7 championships. Another former Cronulla RSL player Lenore Furze, represented NSW, also coached NSW teams is still a respected Netball coach. Another Cronulla RSL player Maxine Bruce is now National A-badged umpire and assists with NSW umpiring programs.
Cronulla RSL has had some fine teams, however one stands out The Voice newspaper on August 25, 1983 reported that the Cronulla RSL A1 Netball team won the A1 competition. What made this remarkable is that it was the fifteenth consecutive grand final and RSL’s tenth premiership. Two players – Vicki Kerr and Kim Crompton had been in each of the fifteen grand final sides. The 1983 success was the fourth in succession beating the three in a row in 1971- 1973. The 17A team also won their grand final emphasising the depth of RSL Netball over this period.
In 1980 the strength of RSL Netball was highlighted when they won the Genevieve Shield, a competition to find the strongest club side in NSW. While it is difficult to compare teams from different eras it is hard to imagine a better side ever playing in the Sutherland Association.
In recent years the Netball has changed and with it so has Cronulla RSL. In order to make Netball more accessible to younger players a modified rules form of Netball has been introduced. Nursery Netball, aimed at 6-8 year olds, has proven to be a successful initiative to encourage girls to try Netball. Such innovations are welcome and thanks to many hard working committee members RSL Netball has been able to continue to evolve.
Cronulla RSL netball has an excellent troupe of life members who in their time devoted much of their time and/or expertise to the creation and development of our great club. These women and men, in no particular order, are (as at January 2010):
Nancy Pullen (still active with SSNA)
Hazel Gunn (deceased)
Alison Peachey (still playing, coaching and umpiring)
Cindy Bannon (RIP, dear Cindy)
Lynn Lapham (2009) (on committee)
Kim Kogias (2009)