With the tag of being one of the greatest defenders in the history of Australian netball, there are few people who know our sport better than Keeley Devery OAM.
The 2005 Netball NSW Hall of Fame inductee, who after her international debut in 1985 was the defensive backbone of both Australian and NSW teams for the next decade, may have retired from playing duties twenty years ago but she has been a constant in promoting the game ever since.
As netball wasn’t a full time profession when she played, Devery made the choice to begin a career in journalism, which has allowed her to stay involved with netball ever since – and there’s never been a more exciting time in the sport than now.
“When I was at the Australian Institute of Sport netball was far from a full-time profession so you were encouraged to study,” Devery explains when asked about how she got into sports production.
“While I was down there I went to Canberra University and did a degree in Sports Studies, majoring in journalism – so it was always something that was of interest and on the backburner.”
Having written some columns and gained vital media experience, Devery scored a gig at Fox Sports and would go on to spend over 20 years with the broadcasting giants, specialising in the sport closest to her heart – netball – as well as rugby union.
“I started out there as a reporter and presenter and then moved into producing,” Devery explains.
“I did a show called The Back Page which was fantastic and in 2008, when Fox Sports secured the rights for the ANZ Championship, I was the supervising producer for that event which went really well.
“After netball went to Channel Ten I started on rugby and was producing our panel show, studio show and then for the last five years I was doing live outside broadcast for our Super Rugby matches, Wallabies Tests and a couple of Rugby World Cups too, which was fantastic.”
It’s an impressive resume by any standards, and now Devery will have the opportunity to merge her two loves – netball and sports production – in her new role as Head of Netball at Channel Nine.
With the new National Netball League securing unprecedented amounts of free-to-air coverage via the Nine Network, Devery knows her new task is a big one but she’s determined to ensure netball shines on the big stage, and even change a few perceptions of the sport’s physicality.
“I’m really excited about just how good the sport can look next season,” she says.
“So many people tell me ‘I’m so glad you got that gig’ and I’m like oh my God the pressure’s on, but I’m excited about it. I think Channel Nine has certainly embraced everything about the game, not just on the court, but off it as well.
“I think that’s the big difference – they are really behind making this sport something big.”
Devery is glad also to be in a position to showcase just how athletic and skilful elite netballers are, and how tough the game is at the top level.
“We are currently looking at lots of things like what kinds of angles we can use to capture the speed of this game,” she adds.
“Speed is such a big part of netball and so many people when they go to a game live, say ‘wow, I didn’t realise it was so fast,’ so trying to capture that is important.
“Replays too can be difficult as well because we have these fantastic moments but then the centre pass has already started again so we are working hard on ways to try and capture everything the game has to offer.”
While Devery and her team look at ways to best showcase the players in action, elite netballers have proven themselves time and time again to be some of the best role models in Australian sport, and she thinks this fact is one the sport’s greatest assets.
“The speed and power these girls have got mean they are up there with the best other sports have to offer,” she added.
“And the girls are certainly marketable as image-wise you can’t get better. But netball is not the fluffy, schoolgirl sport that a lot of people picture it as or have memories of it as.
“I agree that Australians love toughness in their athletes and I think the public can really buy netball on the wider stage.”
And luckily for the netball community, there’s one of their own managing the show.
The 2016 Netball NSW State Dinner is being held on Saturday 5 November at Bankstown Sports Club. Join us for a night of celebration as we acknowledge those in our community who have achieved great things this year – GET YOUR TICKETS.
The event celebrates the individual, team, club and association successes of the year, inducts Hall of Fame members and is a night to catch up with old friends and congratulate everyone on the successes of the netball family throughout the year.
IMAGE: Keeley Devery OAM, right, is inducted into the Netball NSW Hall of Fame by Anne Sargeant OAM in 2005. Picture: Netball NSW