“Here if you need!” Inside netball at the Australian Deaf Games

“Here if you need!” Inside netball at the Australian Deaf Games

At first glance, everything is familiar…

Queensland and New Zealand battled for bronze at the Australian Deaf Games in January 20204. Image: Simon Leonard

Queensland faced New Zealand twice at Newcastle University Forum Stadium. Image: Simon Leonard

Most of the sounds you can recognise: the squealing chirps of sneakers on polished wood floors, the thud and thump of a ball as it bounces, the visual chaos of netball players as they frenzy for position and progress the ball through the court.

However, there is something different about this event. The umpire at this game isn’t using a whistle, preferring a small white flag. Suddenly, the flag starts waving, and some of the players stop and start waving also, they are trying to get the attention of the other players. Feet stamp to catch the attention of the players who haven’t seen the commotion. There is very little talk happening, and the sport’s most-famous line, “Here if you need!” is nowhere to be heard. This is because the athletes playing this game are deaf. Netball Scoop has had the exclusive invitation to accompany the Queensland Deaf Netball team as it travels to Newcastle to compete in the Australian Deaf Games.

Umpire and Netball convenor, Larry Brown with flag at the ready. Image: Simon Leonard

Umpire and Netball convenor, Larry Brown with flag at the ready. Image: Simon Leonard

Netball at the Australian Deaf Games

Australia has celebrated the involvement of deaf athletes for over 140 years. Starting with a deaf cricket club in Melbourne in 1881. The first Australian Deaf Games was held 60 years ago, in 1964, with netball making its debut in 1966 as a women-only competition.

Today, teams are competing in women’s, mixed, and walking netball comps. There are 21 sports for athletes to compete in throughout the games. In the spirit of inclusiveness, along with each Australian State being able to field a team, this year sees unique invitational games with teams from the Oceania Deaf Games also competing. Teams from Fiji and New Zealand have flown to Australia to join the competition. The culture of inclusiveness is pervasive throughout the games, with over 1000 deaf athletes and 150 volunteers supporting the event. You never had to look far to find a volunteer or an interpreter to assist you if required.

Seeing all the athletes parade into the hall for the official opening ceremony was a prestigious moment, with flags of each state or nation flying high. The competition promised to be passionate, but friendly, in the spirit of good sport. The eyes of the country were able to watch the competitors via live-streaming and Kayo sports highlights, enabling these athletes to feel the support from home.

Queensland Deaf Netball’s journey

For Queensland netballer Chloe Haywood, a four-time games veteran (her love for netball extending over 20 years), it is the ‘teamwork and friendship’ that attracts her to compete in the Australian Deaf Games.

Queensland Deaf Netball team captain Tamieka Jones spoke highly of the games. “The deaf community come together as a team, getting to play a sport, with sportsmanship. Getting to know other like-minded people who are hard of hearing or fully deaf. It’s about meeting different people who are similar to me and enjoying sports at the same time”.

Queensland and New Zealand netball players gather together post match at the Australian Deaf Games. Image: Simon Leonard

Teamwork and friendship, the Queensland players gather around an injured NZ player to include her in the post-game huddle.


With Netball joining the Deaf Games in 1966, it has become one of the favourite sports in terms of numbers participating. Tamieka states, “It’s a sport where people at so many different levels can play. You can have a lower fitness level and still include people in the game”.

New team shooter Sophie Bowen, reflected on her first Deaf Games experience, “I’ve been doing netball for ten years, and I don’t think I have ever felt as included as I have in this team.”

Mikayla Leonard, a rookie centre with the team, stated that, “It is a really supportive environment where we are permitted to make mistakes and be able to improve on them without feeling judged. As we feel more included we feel more comfortable to play our own game and have fun with it.”


Toward the Future of the Australian Deaf Games

In 2026 Queensland will be hosting the Australian Deaf Games on the Sunshine Coast. This Queensland team is bolstered by hope and confidence as they reflect on what might be achievable. Veteran Queensland defender, Rebecca Gao noted the side need to, “Improve our skills. A lot can happen in two years as new players could come in. We could definitely win gold next time. Playing at home will attract a lot more interest for sure. We always get a few more people keen to play, so we’ll have more players to choose from. So bring your A-game!”

Tamieka noted that it would be great to find sponsors for the team. “Having sponsors to help with uniforms would be great!”


The Match Results

The Queensland team commenced its campaign against Victoria. A hard-fought, narrow victory saw the Victorian team take its first win 49-41.

A tough draw saw Qld have to face the home side New South Wales Bluebirds, later that day, capitulating that game 36-24. The defence of the NSW side crushed the Qld attack early, though there were signs of a resurgence as Qld managed to pull to within 1 of the Bluebirds, only to suffer an injury to Erin Davies, taking the wind out of the Qld sails.

'Hands In', to celebrate the end of the preliminary stages of the netball competition at the Australian Deaf Games (January 2024). Image: Simon Leonard

A tough contest saw NSW prevail over the building Qld side. Image: Simon Leonard

Day two saw a much more confident Qld side face the New Zealand team with a huge victory for Qld 51-25. Sadly the final game against Fiji had to be forfeited due to excessive injuries in the small Fiji squad, ensuring the Qld team made it to the bronze medal playoff the following day.

The finals kicked off with Qld breaking a 2024 tournament record with 58 goals against a determined New Zealand, who answered with 47 goals. The eleven-point win didn’t reflect the nature of the game, where NZ managed to repeatedly lift and claw back the lead, only for Qld to dig deep to respond and extend ahead.

The Gold medal playoff saw Victoria best NSW in another close and strong defensive game (36-31). Victoria took the overall gold medal for the tournament, spoiling the local favourites and the NSW home team’s aspirations.

Victoria and New Zealand battled for gold in the netball at the Australian Deaf Games: Image: Simon Leonard

NSW defenders pressure the Victorian shooter and eventual tournament MVP – Victoria winning the Gold with a 5-point victory. Image: Simon Leonard

Qld captain Tamieka picked up 2nd place in the MVP race. With the Fiji game forfeited, the Qld players missed any MVP votes from that game. So recognizing Tamieka as 2nd place overall was an extraordinary achievement.

In her words, Tamieka was struggling for energy and breath with the final three minutes to go in their last game. However, she told herself, “They can carry me out for all I care. 3-more minutes… push-push-push-push!” Her leadership reflected on her teammates throughout the tournament.

Bec Gao noted that feeling comfortable with each other was key to Queensland’s success. She stated that they never gave up trying to achieve and grow as a team, adding, “We’ve only had two months of training and only had one game prior”.

Captain Tamieka noted that the tournament was a bonding experience. “Each individual player came together and worked as a team. Feeling more comfortable with each other made everyone work together and encourage each other. We made a bond, going from not knowing each other to, I think, the best team out of all.”


Netball Scoop thanks Qld Deaf Netball, Australian Deaf Games and Netball Convenor Larry Brown for the access and their support throughout the event.


Finals results:

Bronze medal playoff: Qld def NZ 58-47

Gold medal playoff: Vic def NSW 36-31

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

Photographer and occasional writer with Scoop since 2009, despite constantly getting in trouble for putting two spaces after a full-stop... Major highlight was the honour of shooting the 2018 Commonwealth Games for Netball Scoop. Father of four kids including a netball-mad daughter. A full-time Clinical Nurse specialising in Infection Control and Prevention. A committee member of Gold Coast Skeptics. Member of Gold Coast Photographic Society. Aside from that I'm learning guitar too!
Go to Top