Known to any and all who even spent just a short time at the National Park courts, Newcastle Netball president Dell Saunders has spent the past 40 years building the community, the game and competitions in the inner-city association into the powerhouse it is today.
Now, after four decades at the helm, Saunders has called time on her illustrious adminstrative career. The former centre, who began her playing career in the 1940s, is set to attend her last AGM with the association this Tuesday evening.
The netball veteran thanked everyone involved on the committee for their “service, loyalty and friendship over the years”, and said it was “a pleasure, an honour and privilege to have been able to serve the members of the association from its formation as an affiliated association of Netball New South Wales”.
When her retirement was first announced, hundreds of members of the Newcastle Netball community took to social media to thank her for her years of service, including representatives from multiple clubs.
“On behalf of the club, thank you Del,” a representative from BNC Netball said. “For everything you have done, for every single member in the Newcastle and Hunter community. The countless hours, and all the behind the scene work that goes into running the biggest association in the region. You will be missed.”
Cardiff Netball Club praised Dell her for contributions to the entire region, and thanked her for the “generations of lives you touched”.
“The contribution can never be counted nor repaid,” a representative said. “Her gentle way with people, her support of clubs and her delight at seeing young girls and women enjoying sport was a gift. A gift we will never forget.”
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Ms Saunders, who is now 83 years old, stepping into an admin role with the Newcastle clubs in 1955 when she was appointed association secretary. 22 years later, the Novocastrian icon rose to the seat of the president, and has never looked back.
The former president oversaw many changes with the association, including hard court installations at the Union Street competition location in the early 70s. Back then there were just four courts in front of the still growing clubhouse.
Ms Saunders also claimed competitive honours in her playing career, winning the NSW Country Championship with Newcastle in her favoured-centre role.
She also umpire at national levels, sharing her love of the game with new incoming players and wielding the whistle at the biggest competitions of the 20th century.
Although Saunders has confirmed she will no longer be attending general meetings in Newcastle, she has also said she isn’t planning on departing the world of netball entirely.
It is expected Cheryl Hernando will be announced as the next president of the association at the March 12 meeting. The Greater Open Championship, the Newcastle association’s premier competition, is set to begin in April.