Liz Ellis, 45, netball champion, commentator
once players get past 14, i don’t want to deal with them
After a career as an elite athlete, you’re a commentator on Nine and have written a book about infertility. What’s the response been like? I’m surprised how many women and men have picked up the book, people who feel incredibly lonely. I got a message from a woman saying, “It’s great because you don’t offer me hope. You’ve offered me information and advice.” When I was going through IVF, my husband and I got huge dumps of information but without a structure; we couldn’t make sense of it. I’m a control freak so it was distressing. Your six-year-old daughter Evelyn was conceived naturally before you turned to IVF. What happened then? After five rounds of IVF we felt we were ignoring the little girl we had and we thought, “We need to pull up stumps.” Austin [now two] was conceived naturally. His personality matches the way he came along – he does what he wants when he’s ready! You waited a long time before trying for children. Do you think many people suffer fertility problems for the same reason? There are so many ways you come to the point of being infertile. Some don’t find a partner [until they’re older]; some just leave it too late. But also 30 per cent of cases are due to male factors. We need to acknowledge that. With two Commonwealth golds, three world titles and 122 test matches under your belt, how about coaching the Diamonds? Oh no! I love the sport and commentating but coaching requires a level of dedication I don’t have anymore. I love coaching young players but once they get past 14 and have their own opinions, I don’t want to deal with them! The Diamonds’ gold medal loss at the Commonwealth Games… what went wrong? England played incredibly well. For most of that tournament they were superb but I just think a lot of Diamonds players had a sub-par performance on the day. I don’t think the Diamonds program needs to be pulled apart; they met an England team that had everything come together. Netball Australia recently agreed to pay its players properly. How far have we come? A long way. In my last year of playing I earned $8000 for the year and I was the highest paid player in Australia. The first year top players turned professional was the first year I retired. The top players are full-time professional athletes and they need a living wage. Has the AFL women’s league prompted Netball Australia to get its act together? No, I think netball has been ahead on this. The AFL women need to stand up and say, “Somebody’s making money out of us, we want to see a cut of it.” The players have to push for it and be prepared to stare down the administrators. That’s what we did and I’m so glad we did it.
Do sportswomen need to stare down the media for better
coverage of women’s sport? Yes, but now netball is getting Channel Nine treatment and you’re watching the Today show and netball players are on it. That never happened before, but we still need to get netball on the nightly news. We have a significant number of fans welded on and ratings are up. The sport is heading in the right direction. We have to be patient. Do you watch men’s netball? No, I don’t even think about it, to be honest. I guess for me there’s so much to be achieved for women’s netball and I’ve only got time to focus on that.
If At First You Don’t Conceive: Your Friendly Guide to Tackling Infertility by Liz Ellis (Macmillan Australia, $34.99).