It was a longer than usual break from netball that prompted Maddy Proud to begin work on her first novel. She had just finished captaining the Australian 21 and Under Team at the World Youth Cup in Glasgow and was looking forward to some down time before the next season began.
After seeing Maddy constantly disappearing to her room to furiously type on her laptop, her journalist mum curiously asked what she was working on. When Maddy showed her the first draft of what would become Grace on the Court her experienced writer’s eyes realised her daughter had potential and encouraged her to work towards publication.
The book looks to be an instant cult classic with young netball fans, not used to seeing themselves represented in novels. At the launch of the novel at an Anne Sargeant clinic in Manly in January, Maddy found herself overwhelmed with young netballers, all keen to get their hands on one of the first copies.
While there have been other netball-focussed novels written for young readers, none has really captured the spirit of the game and the power of the friendships developed through netball like Grace on the Court. Maddy’s experiences as a young netballer really shine through, adding sincerity and warmth to the story.
Grace on the Court charts Grace Parker’s transition from her carefree and easy life in primary school to beginning high school and navigating her new netball team, changing friendships and noticing boys for the first time.
The theme of the book that really stands out is the importance of female friendships, especially at a time of life when so much is changing. Grace depends strongly on her two best friends, Stella and Mia, throughout the story and it is heart-warming to see the way they speak frankly, yet kindly to each other and the support they offer.
Maddy has given all her characters depth and this was most notable in the character of Amber, Grace’s nemesis from their time captaining opposing netball teams in primary school. When we are first introduced to Amber she is positioned as a typical “mean girl”, however throughout the book it becomes clear that there is more to her than Grace knows.
Through Grace’s empathy and understanding we get to see Amber as a three dimensional character who is flawed and interesting in ways we hadn’t imagined. It provides a refreshing and compelling perspective on how friendship can develop with unexpected people if you are willing to look for the good and have compassion for what other people are going through.
The entire book is a great metaphor for netball – it is a sport that can never be about one person. The restrictions on footwork and areas of the court players are allowed in makes it the ultimate team sport. This is something that Grace learns is true not just for netball, but for life. Much like the #TeamGirls campaign that has run throughout the Super Netball, the Linwood Lions learn to be girls supporting girls, both on and off the court.
While the book is aimed at the 8-12 year old age group, it’s a delightful read for netball fans of all ages. Buy it for the young netball fans in your life, but get a sneaky read of your own in first – you won’t regret it.
You can pick up your copy of Grace on the Court at good bookshops, retailers online or download it for your e-reader.