The Female Fan and why the West Coast Fever has it all

Karen Hennessy

31 July 2021

Netball through the eyes of a female sports fan.

There are various types of female fans. The unrecognised component of professional sport.
We love our sport, we love to watch it, discuss it, follow our team, cheer for them and most of all we love to buy our merch. We are 50 percent of the population and the main purchaser in the household. We buy the memberships; we pay the sporting fees; we organise the babysitters to go to games. We are the Female fans.

I am a sports fan through and through, my husband may say a fair-weather supporter. I beg to differ, just ask any Western Force Fan. Since my days with the Western Force volunteering as a fan rep. I have built an appreciation for all forms of fan engagement of professional franchises and how it captures the minds of the community. Over the last couple of years there has been one professional team in WA that has captured my attention in more ways than one.

The West Coast Fever and Netball WA give yourself a clap on the back.

When the bushfires were raging through New South Wales. I helped Greg Hire with the around the ground event organisation of Boundaries for Bushfires celebrity cricket match that raised 60,000 dollars for the cause. I asked the West Coast Fever to come along and help with the children’s fan zone. There was nothing but Yes, Yes and how can we help? But when I finally met these athletes at the event, I was taken back with a couple of things:
1. How tall Courtney Bruce is!
2. The way the players and staff interacted with the kids.
3. How they helped the volunteers and then they just hung around mingled with the fans, sat on the grass and watched the cricket.

I thought this might have been a once off but I have watched from afar and noticed how Netball WA engages The Fever Players with the Community. For example one match was cancelled and the team were sent out and about the community games on a Saturday morning having fun and engaging with the young girls. At a recent tournament they had an awesome Mosaic Wall that printed off the pictures of the players and coaches and placed them on a poster as part of the engagement. Why is this important ? Because how cool is that for a young female fan?

So let's get back to Netball. Growing up in Ireland as a young girl I never played Netball, in fact I hardly knew it existed. Or if I did it was that sport that was at the Commonwealth games. So when I was studying to be a physical education teacher in the UK I was introduced to netball or netball was introduced to me . Basketball was my main sport so you can imagine the shock I had when I realised I could not dribble the ball up the court. Also there was an imaginary circle protecting players from my physicality. Really. I always shied away from teaching it as much as I could because I never knew where the WD was allowed to go.
So when I met these Netball players and the Netball WA staff I said I think I'll make the effort with Netball and the effort I did make made me appreciate netball in a whole new light. Then my daughter started to play on a friend's team. This was my excuse to go watch a game. The only problem was that it was last season and the team were in a bubble over in Queensland. So we headed along to a fan appreciation event at RAC. Awesome event but the players were on the big screens.

Two Saturdays ago, I bought tickets to the Fevers last home game, and the last home game coached by Coach Stacy. A friend and I and her netball loving daughter had been waiting for the Melbourne Vixens game that had been cancelled weeks previously. This game was a last hooray to a coach that has helped build a franchise, a culture and her own coaching career.

This game had it all: skill, speed, excitement, flashing net poles, flying pigs, awesome game day entertainment, Mexican waves, scream mums and daughters, dancing dads and my two favourite fan engagement specialist companies doing their thing. Adept Photo Booths and Komo Digital Entertainment.
Adept Photo Booths work with the West Coast Fever and Netball WA to put young fans in the shoes of their heroes. Whether it is the West Coast Fever television commercial in their 360 Photo Booth or selfies with the players at junior netball venues, Adept Photo Booths use video and photo experience to connect young fans with the team on a deeper level. With their mantra to ‘bring events to life’ their certainly help create this at Fever games.

The three major things that happened to me at that game. Remember this was my first live netball match. I admit it, I cried. The presentation to coach Stacy at the end was just beautiful. My muscles were sore from all that dancing and I could not get to the Merchandise stands because the queues were so long. Then by leaving the game we had posters of every player in hand and I was just blown away with the skill of the game. The different types of players and the amazing Janielle Fowler how she moved in the small space that she was to score all those goals.
I decided to get in contact with Netball WA and ask them why was it so important to grassroots Netball that there was such a good connection with the professional side .
Netball WA General Manager Community Netball, Liz Booth, said that connecting West Coast Fever athletes with the community was vital to the overall health of the game.

“The Fever players are such genuine, positive role models and their involvement with the netball community is an invaluable part of promoting the game and making young netballers aware that they too have the opportunity to follow their dreams.”
“This engagement also allows our netball community to feel part of and connected to our West Coast Fever club”

I really hope that the Fever win this season after two years of being beaten in the grand final. If not, I think they have the most amazing foundations to keep the franchise alive in Perth for many years to come and may 2032 we will see the diamonds in the Olympics, where they should be.

Thank you Netball for reintroducing yourself to my life.