Australia’s most celebrated netballer and now a media personality, Liz Ellis (AM) will visit Armidale next month, as special guest of the PLC Armidale Foundation. We chat with Liz about her successes and what she will be doing at PLC Armidale.
The New England area and Armidale in particular, holds a special place in your heart, Liz. Have you any stories you can share?
Armidale is where I met my now husband Matthew Stocks, who is a former NSW Waratah rugby player and Australian Under 21 rugby representative. We were both coaching at the National Sports Camps at the University of New England in the early 1990s. We shared a lot of great times in Armidale and have some fabulous memories from the rugby and netball camp days. As for stories … what goes on tour will always stay on tour, as they say! However, we always look forward to visiting when we can, as we have made some wonderful friendships from the Sports Camps.
What brings you to Armidale this time?
I have been invited by Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC) Armidale Foundation to be the special guest at this year’s Successful Women’s Seminar on Wednesday 6 March. After the community networking lunch, I have been asked to present the keynote address on the topic of ‘Balancing Ambition In All Courts’. I will also conduct a coaching clinic for aspiring PLC netballers in the morning. I am really looking forward to liaising with the PLC and Armidale communities at this annual event.
The Liz Ellis story is what little girls dream of: to play netball for their country, achieve a successful career and enjoy the rewards of a wonderful family. You have achieved so much on and off the court in your short 40 years. What is your most memorable achievement?
That’s easy – my beautiful daughter, Evelyn.
Becoming a mum is one of the hardest – and most rewarding – things I have ever done.
My most memorable netball achievement was captaining Australia to victory in the 2007 World Championships final – which was my last ever game.
Another special honour was receiving the Member of Australia Award (AM) in 2009, in the Australia Day honours for “services to netball and the encouragement of women in sport, and the community through support for a range of charitable organisations”.
Not bad accolades Liz, for a young girl who grew up in Windsor and started playing ‘netty’ as a junior for the Hawkesbury Netball Association. Who was your fiercest adversary?
Toss up between Irene Van Dyke (the South African born Silver Fern Goal Shooter) and Cath Cox! Irene and I enjoyed many feisty encounters on the court, but have actually remained friends off court. That’s the great thing about sport.
Coxy was my fiercest opponent day in day out at Swifts and Aussie training. Playing against her every day made me a better player!
As a player, Liz, you were renown for your fierce determination and skill – and in particular thrilled crowds internationally for your healthy rivalry with combatant Irene Van Dyke. Have these incredible qualities assisted you off the court at all?
Most definitely. I am always applying the skills I have acquired through netball, whether it is when coaching young players, commentating on the netball or doing other media work such as ABC Radio. I am also an active member of a number of Boards such as the NSW Institute of Sport and Sydney Olympic Park, where I use my skills and experiences regularly.
The title of your address at PLC suggests that you have more to your bow than just playing international netball. Tell us a little bit about your career?
After finishing school at John Paul II Senior Catholic High School, I attended the Australian Institute of Sport on a netball scholarship and was always mindful of the importance of a sound education. I completed my Arts/Law degree at Macquarie University, which was challenging combining study with a hectic training schedule.
After I graduated, I worked as a solicitor for Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Sydney, while working my way up the netball ranks. Since retiring from playing international netball in 2007, I have been coaching and commentating, among a lot of other things. I really enjoy the coaching. I find that I enjoy things better when I have a lot of balls in the air.
You have also established a special Foundation that is very close to your heart. What does it involve?
The philosophy of the Liz Ellis Foundation, ‘Goals 4 Girls’, promotes the importance of a good education in the achievement of success. It is a philosophy very much aligned to that of PLC Armidale.
The ‘Goals 4 Girls’ program was initiated to provide tertiary scholarships to young women who displayed leadership, academic and sporting aptitude and whose family situation may otherwise preclude them from pursuing their educational goals. Similarly, the PLC Foundation works to provide scholarships to PLC Armidale for girls from regional areas who may not otherwise be able to enjoy the many opportunities offered by the school.
You seem to have the work/life balance sorted. Have you any tips?
Actually, I am still trying to work it out, if the truth is known. It’s simply a matter of being disciplined in how I manage my time.
I am also very fortunate to have an exceptionally supportive husband and family close by. I love to cook to unwind after a big day, but my most favourite relaxation is spending time with Evelyn and Matthew. Evelyn particularly enjoys the water, so I am spending a lot of the summer, so far, in our pool with her!
Liz, your extraordinary commitment to many and varied off-court pursuits, together with your amazing netball achievements will never cease to impress. You continue to be an inspiration to our generation and those that follow … both women and men. Thank you for your time.
You can hear Liz’ remarkable story at the PLC Foundation ‘Successful Women’s Seminar’on Wednesday, March 6.
This article was published in issue 69 of New England Focus