Country Style - - MY COUNTRY CHILDHOOD -

De­spite win­ning cham­pi­onships across the globe, this star ath­lete tells Claire Mactag­gart that a farm in Queens­land’s Dar­ling Downs is call­ing her home.

‘cuppa’ fea­tures promi­nently in the mem­o­ries of Laura Geitz; whether it was poured from an old teapot at the kitchen ta­ble or en­joyed from a Ther­mos in a pad­dock on the fam­ily farm near Al­lora, al­most 2½ hours south-west of Bris­bane. It was a daily rit­ual for the fam­ily — par­ents Ross and Juanita, and older sis­ter Carla. “It was al­ways an oc­ca­sion when Dad came home from out work­ing and said, ‘I’m go­ing to put the billy on.’ Then we’d sit down and have smoko to­gether,” Laura says. Although the 27-year-old is based in Bris­bane, and trav­els regularly as cap­tain of the Aus­tralian Di­a­monds Net­ball team and the Queens­land Fire­birds, she loves to re­turn to the fam­ily grain and cat­tle prop­erty on the Dar­ling Downs at week­ends. Last year, Laura and hus­band Mark Gil­bride, a for­mer pro­fes­sional rugby union player, pur­chased 105 hectares of the prop­erty and hope to raise a fam­ily there. “I still call Al­lora home and I love the thought of one day putting up a lit­tle cot­tage there,” Laura says. “I’d love noth­ing bet­ter than for my chil­dren to grow up in a small coun­try town and have that link back home.”

AFrom the very start, Laura was hooked by net­ball. “When I was 14 and had just started play­ing, I said to Mum, ‘I’m go­ing to play net­ball for Queens­land and Aus­tralia.’ Mum said, ‘Oh jeez, that’s a bit of a stretch — how are you go­ing to get there?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll get there!’ ” Laura soon found a way and was rep­re­sent­ing Queens­land and Aus­tralia at the un­der-17 level. She be­came cap­tain of the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport Darters in 2007, and in 2011, with the Fire­birds, won the ANZ Cham­pi­onship, fol­lowed by the World Cham­pi­onships with the Di­a­monds. Another ca­reer high­light came last year when the Di­a­monds won gold at the Com­mon­wealth Games in Glas­gow. Laura and Mark were mar­ried in 2012, and to­gether they mar­ket a range of net­ball ap­parel and equip­ment. Just months af­ter their wed­ding, Laura’s fa­ther Ross was killed in a farm ac­ci­dent. “He was the most won­der­ful per­son and role model, a gen­uine, hard­work­ing and kind-hearted man… I hope I carry some of those val­ues,” she says. Laura will lead the Aus­tralian team to the Net­ball World Cup in Syd­ney this month.

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