Bianca Chatfield. Picture: emmoff/Flickr

Bianca Chatfield. Picture: emmoff/Flickr

Bianca Chatfield is synonymous with Australian netball. She was one of the youngest-ever players to pull on the green and gold with her first appearance for the Diamonds coming at the age of 18-years-old.

Over a career that spanned 13 years, Chatfield made 59 appearances for Australia, including the triumphant 2007 Netball World Cup Team and the 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold Medal side. To say she has contributed to Netball would be an understatement. 

However, Chatfield made a startling revelation this week, speaking to former AFL MVP and dual-Premiership Player Corey McKernan on his weekly web series Fork in the Road about her pay rate during her distinguished career.

“I think my first contract with Melbourne Pheonix was one thousand dollars,” Chatfield said.

“And that wasn’t a thousand dollars a game, that was a thousand dollars a year.

“It was probably covering a bit of petrol to get you to and from training.”

It left host Corey McKernan visibly shocked. 

Chatfield, who has 244 domestic appearances to her name was part of four title-winning sides for the Melbourne Pheonix in the first half of her domestic career – the same side she earned just one-thousand dollars for each season. 

“At that stage, we were having to supply our own tape to strap our own ankles before training. 

“We were having to buy our own food when we were on tour or away for a game… I even remember a team manager bringing away with us a toasted sandwich maker, a microwave and putting them on the plane to take with us into hotels so that we could try and save money on meals before a game.” 

Chatfield’s astonishing yet candid insight into early professional netball left viewers dumbfounded. 

For a game that Chatfield has dedicated her life to and since parted as one of the most distinguished players in its history, the former Diamond’s frank revelation revealed how extraordinarily little resources she and her teammates had been afforded during her playing career in which Australia dominated world rankings.

“Even medical expenses – that was one of the huge changes we eventually made. If you hurt your ankle or done your knee playing netball which, is a common injury, unfortunately, and you’re out for 12 months – all the costs of your MRI’s and your surgery and all of that was on you,” Chatfield said.

“So, a lot of girls could not afford to keep playing the sport (professionally) because it did eventually cost them a lot.”

Women’s sport has been notoriously neglected throughout its existence, although momentum has begun to pick up in recent years.  

Netball Australia announced in February there would be a new Collective Player Agreement with the Suncorp Super Netball league for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

A statement from Netball Australia read “From 2021, the minimum salary of all contracted athletes will rise by 10% up to $33,000 which, in addition to the increased health insurance allowance of $2,667 and a technology allowance of $1,000, will result in an overall minimum payment to players of $36,667. 

While the average wage of a netball player in Australia is approximately $67,000, many are on the minimum wage salary of $30,000.

Still, it’s hard to overlook how many established netballers and even emerging athletes that could have gone professional, who ultimately turned their back on playing the game at the highest level domestically due to costs.  

When Chatfield made the Australian team, she told McKernan how players had to fight for remuneration.

“We fought for about one hundred dollars a day as a bit of a podium as such to help cover the costs while you were on tour, and by the time I retired that was at four hundred dollars per day that you got paid,” Chatfield said.

“So there was still no match payments and there still is no match payments for playing for Australia.

“It’s taken a long time to see those changes and it’s kind of laughable when you look back on it now but we did play for the love and we loved it, and that’s why we did it and that’s why we put up with all of those conditions.

“You have to start somewhere.”

You can watch the full interview of this week’s Fork in the Road episode, hosted by Corey McKernan in which Bianca Chatfield talks about her career in Netball, her experience on reality TV series The Block and much more. 

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