I remember going to the Commonwealth Games in 2006. Being in awe of my favourite players, stunned at their athleticism, and quietly mourning the absence of Liz Ellis, who’d wrecked her knee a few months earlier. In Melbourne’s carnival-like atmosphere, my biggest surprise was netball match audiences. They were so polite.
Crazy wigs and make-up – no. Screeches of ‘held ball, umpire!’ – never. There was just a gentle smattering of applause when the Aussies took the court, a murmured groan of disbelief when New Zealand won the gold, and little of the hype seen elsewhere in the city. It was such a contrast to the raucous nettie crowds back home in Western Australia.
Fast forward 12 years, and crowds are discovering they have a voice. But nowhere matches the enthusiasm of a Sandgroper sellout. They can pack a stadium, roar, stamp and create an electrical forcefield like nowhere else I’ve seen. Its spine-tingling stuff. And it’s that energy Sharelle McMahon is hoping to harness when the stage show, The Centurions, comes to town in October.
Sharelle said, “As an athlete, playing in Perth was one of the toughest places to go, because the crowds were so parochial. We were always up against that fierce passion. But when we’re out on stage next month we hope the crowds will be with us. They always create a wonderful energy, and I hope they will bring that to see us perform.”
The brainchild of the incomparable Sue Gaudion, The Centurions features netball legends Liz Ellis, Cath Cox and Sharelle McMahon on stage. Having been to the Sydney version, it’s like sitting down for a not-so-quiet bevvy and chat with your besties. They’re warm, engaging, and a laugh a minute.
Listening to Sue Gaudion’s dulcet tones as compere, comedian and muso is worth the ticket price alone. She’s funny – side-splittingly so. More commonly known as a commentator and coach now, Sue used to front an all-girl band cheekily called Up The Duffs. Back in the day, she was also employed by Netball WA as a parent liaison officer during national youth age championships. Mike Bassett, father of Australian captain Caitlin, remembers those tours as some of the funniest days of his life.
Mike said, “Gaudie would bring along her guitar, the parents would all dress up and we’d sing unmentionable lyrics to some favourite songs. Some of the other states got into the act and ended up in competition with us, and we’re still great mates with some of those parents today. It got to the point we ended up putting on a review at the WA Netball Awards, thoroughly embarrassing our children.”
While Sue is hilarious to listen to, the stars of the show are the three Centurions, who she tries to keep roughly on track. Liz, Cath and Sharelle, across the course of long careers, have spent a wealth of time together. As great mates, they’ve shared the highs and lows of sport, and will relate as many of those stories as they can cram into two hours.
Sharelle explained, “We’ve known each other for a long time, worked together well, and love taking the mickey out of each other. That’s fun. So we want to bring that to the show. There are so many things that have happened over the years – on the court, away from the court, and of course at the end points of our playing careers.”
“We want to get on stage and talk about some of the amazing things we’ve shared, particularly behind the scenes, and have a lot of fun in the process.”
The Centurions has already played to sold out audiences in Melbourne and Sydney. While the format for Perth will be similar, Sharelle promises that there will be plenty of new material for those who’ve already seen the stage show. She said, “There are tweaks, upgrades and different little stories that we will add into it. And no doubt Liz will go off onto a tangent anyway and produce new material at the time. That’s always an occupational hazard with her.”
Audience participation makes the show, and to enjoy the fun with a gaggle of mates, The Centurions have offered a Club20 pack to the public. The first ten groups who purchase 20 or more tickets to the show will not only get to sit through a hilarious evening and hear some wonderful memoirs, but will get a pack valued at over $1200. It includes:
• Fuel Your Dreams by Nat von Bertouch
• Netskills Season Series by Gillian Lee
• My Incredible Netball Journal by Sue Cox and Eliza McCann
• Shine by Jenny Sinclair and Megan Maurice
• What is Netball by Clare Heasly
• The Good, the Bad, the Ugly coaching manuals by Sue Gaudion and Lyn Pemberton
• Telstra TV box
• Scanlan Scribbles
• Safe Laces
• Printhie Wines
• The Centurions coffee book
• Personalised message from one of the stars of the show
• Netball signed by The Centurions
• Restaurant vouchers valid for the night of the show
The Club20 promotion finishes on Friday October 5 unless previously sold out. Club20 tickets can be purchased on 1300 364 001 (password Club20). Alternatively, tickets can be purchased through Ticketek.
The Centurions show is on Tuesday October 30, at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco.