Jessica on Starting A Netball Club and Studying Law

Meru Land (Renmark, South Australia)
University of Adelaide, HWL Ebsworth Law Firm 
Netball, travel, having a community 

Creating community in a new city  

Taking a gap year

After year 12, I was fortunate enough to be able to partake in a 6 month student exchange at Lycée Bleu in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France.

During the next 6 months, I worked in a carrot factory in Renmark trying to save up enough money to qualify for Youth Allowance and to pay my way through College. 

The following year I moved to Aquinas College in Adelaide to commence my Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide. 

Living on res and starting a netball club

Living on res at Aquinas was amazing because you instantly had over 200 roommates who you quickly befriended.  However, after I moved out of College and my friends started moving back to the country after they finished their Degrees, I started to feel lonely.  Especially because I was one of the only people from the Riverland region who was studying law at Adelaide University at the time.  

So me and a group of country girls decided to create our own netball club in Adelaide.  We wanted to play competitive netball but with a country atmosphere. We started with 2 teams and 16 players in 2010 and we decided to call ourselves “Walkerville Netball Club”. 

Since then, Walkerville Netball Club has grown to be the third largest netball club in the Adelaide Metropolitan Netball Division (being the largest competition in South Australia) with 30 teams and over 300 members. We have teams from League down to under 9s and we are very proud that we have maintained our country spirit!

Creating an inclusive sporting community

As for netball, I wanted to create a club with a difference. When I was about 13 years’ old I tried out for my town’s basketball team and I didn’t make the cut. I was absolutely devastated because there was only one club in my town and I was left without an option. However, my mum made some enquiries and got me into a team in another town over 30km away. I am so glad she did because it made me more determined than ever to improve and show that coach that he had made a mistake. 

Although this was an important life lesson for me, I nearly gave up sport completely after this incident because I felt rejected and I did not have another option to play basketball in my town. 

So when I founded Walkerville Netball Club, I made the decision that we would never turn a player away based on their skill. We guarantee our members a spot before try outs because I never want a little girl coming out to selections, being told “you’re not good enough” and then potentially quitting sport all together.  

Studying law

My grandfather once told me when I was young that I had a “logical mind” which always stuck with me and appeared to suit a career in law. My father also was accepted into law after he finished high school in Adelaide but instead decided to follow his dreams of moving to the country and working outside in the fresh air as a landscape gardener. Being terribly afraid of spiders, landscape gardening was certainly not for me. But I felt a special kinship with my father going into a profession that he was also interested in at the same age as me.  Studying law also suited my skill set of being a confident public speaker and having good analytical and communication skills. 

I am a now Special Counsel at HWL Ebsworth Lawyers in Adelaide specialising in workplace relations and safety.

The reality of working in law is pretty different to what most people think. Television shows make it appear as though you are briefed on a case one day, and then you’re in court the next. That is very different to the way things actually work.  Litigation takes time and some files can take years to close.  There is also a perception that every matter proceeds to trial which is not the case. Most matters resolve at mediation, so having strong negotiation and communication skills is important. 

Advice for people finishing school

Firstly, take a gap year after you finish your year 12 studies (if you can) as you will gain invaluable life experience.  This will not only benefit you personally but it is also very attractive for prospective employers. 

Secondly, your education is important but make sure you make the time for the things you love, otherwise you will burn out. For me, it was netball, and I have not stopped playing sport since I was 5 years old.  Committing to a team each season means I cannot make excuses for myself because I can’t let my team mates down. No matter how busy I am, whether I have a trial or exhausted from family life, I will always make time for myself and my team through sport. 

And finally, never lose your sense of humour!

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