Walking netball is such a new sporting event that all five teams competing at the Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin had never played the game before.
The Sapphires, a Dunedin team which first played netball at the Masters Games in 2000 and then retired from the game in 2011, was lured back by this new iteration of the game.
Walking netball is basically netball minus all the high impact moves. One foot has to always be on the ground so that rules out running and jumping.
It is a game for those who love netball but who do not want to be hard on their body, which Sapphires team member Kim Barnes felt was just about all her team could handle.
“We are hardened netball fans. We travel to every Silver Fern and Southern Steel game that we can.
“When it comes to our own playing skills, though, we know we have hidden talents but just haven’t found them yet.
“This is fabulous fun for us and also very special, as we lost Karen – one of our dearest players – last year, so we are playing in honour of her memory.”
Kim said it took the Sapphires some time to get used to the fact that they could not run or jump.
“You just wanted to do that instinctively.
“I think our sorest muscles were our laughing muscles.”
The Sapphires’ hidden talents eventually came to the fore in the competition and they did their friend’s memory proud by winning the gold medal in the 50+ age group.
Kim said the win was very emotional.
“It was very, very special.”
During the medal ceremony, Games ambassador Jodi Brown revealed that she herself had played in the local walking netball competition in Dunedin, which started near the end of last year.
“I’m in a family team that includes my daughters and my parents-in-law.
“I love it.
“I had to give up netball because of injuries, so for me it’s a great way to play the game and also provided me with an awesome opportunity to play with my family.
“Our team range in age from 6 to 66 years.”
Barnes said the Sapphires were definitely considering becoming regular players in the local walking netball competition.
The Masters Games finished on Sunday.