In 2017 we formed the first representative netball team for females with an intellectual disability, called the Dragonflies Netball team.
The team became the first Northern Territory team to compete at the Marie Little Shield, the national netball championships for females with an intellectual disability.
The team was formed with the help of Netball NT staff member and Community Development Manager Haylee Gillies who met with communities and teachers to float the idea and formulate the approach. Bringing enough participants together to create the team proved easier than originally thought which showed the demand within the NT for sport for people with a disability.
Forming the team gave participants a chance to learn netball in a safe and welcoming environment. It also helped to promote and encourage a range of life skills including social skills, team work, integrity, positive behaviour, leadership and an understanding of fairness.
All of the participants have actively taken these skills back into their communities and are role models to their peers.
Throughout the Northern Territory there is a lack of opportunities for people with disabilities to play sport or to represent the Northern Territory at a national event.
We identified that there had been no targeted approach in the disability area, so we ran a report on the national database program—MyNetball—where participants can identify as having a disability.
As there were no organised netball programs in the Northern Territory, only a small percentage had identified.
We knew something needed to change, so the Dragonflies Netball Team was created. In 2018, through the success of the Dragonflies and the promotion of the team, the demand for netball in the NT within the disability community has grown substantially that an All Abilities Grade in the local association is being formed to allow more people the opportunity to play netball.
At the Marie Little Shield tournament, the Dragonflies were welcomed with open arms by the other states who were excited to have the NT participating for the first time. The team grew in skill and in confidence with each game, and ended up winning their last game of the minor round as well as their finals game, meaning the team came 5th for the overall tournament.
Evaluations were provided to all participants and team officials to assist with planning for future years. The evaluation examined event feedback, team feedback and general feedback with everyone happy with the program after its first year of implementation.
Dragonflies Captain Naomi Alliston was happy to have her team representing their state.
“The girls were very lovely, I made so many new friends from other states.”
“Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, made me so happy, it’s really good.”
The Dragonflies coach, Chantelle Ayres was proud of the way they developed across the tournament.
“I saw them improve from day one magnificently. The team spirit and the actual ability increased by far."
“All the hard work they did at training, then to see them out on court was amazing. They put it altogether, they picked up on what the other teams were doing and then went out there and made it difficult for the others.”
We also identified the need to promote the team more widely to ensure we are capturing potential participants from outside the Darwin and Katherine regions, particularly in the Central Australia region.