Fiona Moore-McGrath is a former Glasgow Wildcats and Strathclyde Sirens player with 62 caps for Scotland and a keen passion to support the development of the game for future generations to come.
Through a career that has spanned Superleague seasons, a Netball World Cup and a Commonwealth Games, Fiona says the best thing about the sport is the lifelong friends that she has met along the way. “My team mates are some of my closest friends now and I expect them still to be when we our in our 70s!”
Fiona’s oldest memories of netball are that of watching her older sister play and as the younger sibling always wanting to copy, she followed in her footsteps and started playing netball, working her way up through District Netball and Under Age Groups. Through her early days as part of the National set up she recalls the difficulties for players in Scotland, with national training hubs based in either Glasgow or Edinburgh. “Often accessing these was a major issue for the majority of girls across the Scottish districts, especially those from the Highlands and Islands, you would have girls travelling for 10hrs just to reach a national training centre”.
Netball in Scotland really started to move in the right direction with the formation of the Glasgow Wildcats in 2008 and the opportunity to play in the English Superleague. However during these days funding was always a big issue and although it pushed Scottish Netball in the right direction missing out on qualification for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi was a bit of a setback. “When you’re so reliant on funding and you’re not going to get the funding if you’re not in the majors, it’s a bit of chicken and egg scenario really and then in 2011 when Glasgow Wildcats were stripped of their Superleague status everything felt a bit stagnant in Scottish Netball after this”.
“I think the real changing point for us and one of the most historical things for Scottish Netball was the home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. This gave a real insurgence back into the sport.” Fiona remembers proudly that this was the first Scottish Squad to compete in a Commonwealth Games, and not only that, but in their home country. ”It allowed all our loyal home fans to not just watch us, but all the other big named players from other nations on home soil and really showcase the sport. I know this may sound a bit cliche as its normally a term reserved for your wedding day or having children but undoubtedly this was the best time of my life!”
The Commonwealth Games saw an explosion of interest in both watching and participating in netball in Scotland and the national team went on to qualify for the Netball World Cup in Sydney in 2015. The momentum also continued to build in Scotland with the formation of the Strathclyde Sirens during the expansion of the Netball Superleague in 2016.
“I really felt this was a monumental time for both netball in Scotland and women’s sport in this country and I also felt that I had some unfinished business in the Superleague after my time with Glasgow Wildcats. So the opportunity to play again was one that I couldn’t turn down. Although it was definitely a difficult time, as a new mum and working full time as a Police Officer it was a bit of a juggling act managing a heavy netball schedule as well, but to have the opportunity to train and play alongside some of the biggest names in the sport including Carla Borrego from Jamaica, a world championship bronze medallist and Ellen Halpenny, a New Zealander who won silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games was fantastic.”
“I think Sirens being in the Superleague has been massive for the sport in Scotland and kept that momentum from the 2014 Commonwealth Games going. For young girls to now be able to see that there is something to aim for and that they can become professional players themselves is huge. The game has really moved on.”
“It was during my last year of Superleague that the NPA came onto the scenes and I think at the time as a player it didn’t necessarily seem like something that I needed to connect with but things are getting more professional all the time now. There is money to be made and the girls need to understand that they need to protect themselves. The NPA can offer support on things that may seem foreign to players like negotiating contracts and wider support around player welfare and lifestyle. Ultimately if we want the sport to move forward and take it seriously then players need to start seeing themselves as an asset. We are entering into a new generation now for Netball and it is a really exciting time where it could seriously be an option as a professional career for say my daughter.”
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This article was written by Amy Cowd