Chasing after a big dream can be heartbreaking. Just ask netballer Paige Hadley, who has gone through many devastating moments of her own in the last four years, starting with an ACL injury and peaking when she wasn’t selected for this year’s Australian Commonwealth Games team. But the NSW Swifts vice-captain has learnt, as painful as a potential outcome can be, you have to let go of control and put all your heart into the process.
“I was injured at the end of the season last year, which obviously is one of those things that you can’t help – injuries happen in sport,” the 25-year-old says. But it happened at the worst possible time, before she headed overseas to represent Australia at the Netball Quad Series against South Africa, England and New Zealand (anyone else just love the impeccable timing of the universe?). How she performed in this series was critical because the Commonwealth Games team would be selected when they returned home.
“We went with a squad of 14 – so they need 12 players every game – I missed out on two of those games,” she says of the missed opportunity to show what she could do on the courts. “Having been injured, doing rehab, then I finally got back in the green-and-gold and just to fall short…”
Paige played the last game in the series against New Zealand, had really good feedback, and was “on a massive high”. But two days after arriving back home, she got the news: she hadn't made the Commonwealth Games team.
“I remember I got home from training and I was sitting in my car and I got the call saying I wasn’t selected as a team mate or as a training partner – only three people missed out on being a training partner.
“For me it was hard. Obviously four years ago I did my ACL, the same year as the Commonwealth Games, and I then I had that big goal in my head of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and I wanted to be on the Gold Coast and I unfortunately didn’t make it and I think for me it was a crazy experience.
“For the first time in my life, I didn’t cry when I didn’t get in. I thought, ‘Why am I not crying? This has been the biggest goal for the last four years. What’s wrong with me?’ Coming away from it I realised that I have built up such resilience. I had put everything that I had on the line for that team and I had given everything. I trained really hard, I had rehab, I got back in the Aussie team [for the Quad Series]."
"I played my heart out, I had the opportunity and unfortunately at the end of the day I wasn't to be selected."
“And I realised that it's OK. And it’s not the end of the world and that I’ve got an amazing team, the Swifts, to come back into as a vice captain and to lead those girls. At the end of the day it was a really hard experience and I obviously missed out on that opportunity, which doesn’t come every day," Paige says.
“But I’ve realised that selection doesn’t define who I am or define where I’m going or define what I can be. I think it’s crazy that every setback makes me an even better person. I’m so excited for this [Super Netball] season and to be able to play with my best mates in the red team and get out there and really kick butt.”
Winning this season’s trophy is top of the list for Paige. And with that is proving that she should never be overlooked for an Australian team again.
“The World Cup is next year and I want to be there. I know I want to be the best netballer in the world.
“I need to focus on my team [NSW Swifts], and if I’m playing the best netball that I can play, and if I’m absolutely dominating for my team, if I’m doing everything right, then I put it back on her [Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander] and make her realise – it’s her decision and she can pick who she wants – but it’s going to make it hard for her to not pick me.
“For me it’s not about worrying about that outcome but the process in this team and how we are going to win that title. At the end of the day if we’re winning and we’re in the Grand Final, it means I’m doing something right.”
Watch Paige Hadley and the NSW Swifts play in this year’s Super Netball season.