It was the love of netball that motivated West Coast Fever new recruit Verity Simmons through the hard times as her passion and determination drove her to pursue a life as a netballer.
The 20-year old has overcome her fair share of adversity including travel, shoulder surgery and being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes to sign her first ANZ Championship contract with the Fever.
“When I was told I had diabetes and was out with my shoulder during that six month period I was thinking about whether or not netball was going to be worth it but I just love the sport too much and I couldn’t bring myself to quit,” Simmons told GameOn.
“I’ve always said that if something makes you smile then you don’t give it up and netball has always made me happy.”
Born in Liverpool in Sydney’s south, Verity was introduced to the sport as a five year old by her netball-mad family.
“I’ve loved netball ever since running around for the first time; mum said that I never stopped running at centre,” Simmons said.
“Going along to watch mum play all the time and my big sister, I just wanted to be like them.”
A move to Grafton in far north New South Wales, 615km north of Sydney, two years later saw Verity’s imminent netball career take off – along with the opportunity to play alongside her mum and sisters, whom she had admired for so long.
“I’m really lucky: mum, my older sister Marley and younger sister Ebony are all awesome players,” she said.
“When we moved up to Grafton when I was about seven years old, we all played in the in the same team which was cool.
“It was hard at first because we were family we felt like we could yell at each other a bit but we knew how each other played from just mucking around in the backyard so we knew how everyone worked.
“My older sister Marley and I were always out in the backyard playing, we were always competitive and that’s where I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a lot of skills and be as good as her when I was young – she’s been a good role model.”
After playing netball for school and rep teams in northern NSW, Simmons was selected in her first state team – a wonderful opportunity that required a significant commitment from both Verity and her mother Carol.
“Mum was driving me every weekend to Sydney which was ten hours each way and that got too much with all the travelling and financial costs,” Simmons recalled.
“Netball NSW and the NSW Institute of Sport picked me up on scholarship so I could start flying back and forth but I was missing a lot of school so they asked me to move.
“I moved to Newcastle to live with my friends’ grandparents and I lived with them for two years.
“They were the most beautiful people and I was very lucky to have them.”
Shortly after a move to Newcastle, Simmons’ life was cruelly turned upside down.
“When I was in Newcastle, I had to get a shoulder operation so I was out for six months then found out I was a Type 1 Diabetic when I was living there so it was a bit hectic,” she said.
“At the start it was a bit of a struggle because I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing or didn’t know anything about the disease so it was all about getting a good balance between food intake and exercise.”
After learning more about the disease, Verity says that netball has helped her manage life as a diabetic with training and the professional environment helping to maintain her insulin “stay smooth”.
Following a two year stint at the Australian Institute of Sport, Simmons signed her first ANZ Championship contract with the Fever during the summer after a meeting with the team’s new coach, Norma Plummer.
Simmons has signed for two years to play under former national team coach, Plummer, and alongside Diamonds players Susan Fuhrmann, Caitlin Bassett and her mum’s favourite player Catherine Cox.
“I was shocked when I got offered the Fever contract - I never thought it would happen but I always wanted it to.
“I rang mum and she was so stoked and it never felt real but now that I’m over here (in Perth) it’s finally starting to sink in a little bit.
“Catherine Cox has always been my mum’s favourite player so when she signed with the Fever mum was so crazy.
“They’re awesome role models and such genuine people so it’s made getting settled into the team a lot easier and I’m learning a lot from them.”
Simmons, standing at 170cm, is the second shortest player from the Australian franchises in this year’s ANZ Championship, second only to Melbourne Vixens’ Madison Browne by two centimetres.
It will be her speed, agility, strength and determination that will see Simmons match it with her netball idols on court, including Temepara George of the Northern Mystics, who also happens to stand at the same height.
“I just want to have a good crack at the season, get into it and not hold back, score some court time and help the Fever get over the line into the finals for the first time which will be awesome.
“I’m probably going to be so nervous (playing against my idols) but I love a good challenge so to play against some of the best players in the world will be so exciting, trying to be as good as them or even beat them.”
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