Nat Medhurst - Netball - PlayersVoice
Nat Medhurst - Netball - PlayersVoice

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One day’s notice

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One day’s notice

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It was pretty brutal, the way they did it. I had no inkling it was coming.

 

I thought I would finish my career with the West Coast Fever. I had a three-year contract that included this season – with an opt-out clause for both parties.

 

Last August, one day before my contract ended, Fever opted out.

 

It was a complete shock. We’d played the Suncorp Super Netball grand final on the Sunday. The free agents’ list was released the next day. I had no idea I was on it. Why would I? I had a contract. I was committed. I wasn’t planning to go anywhere.

 

Our awards dinner was on the Wednesday night. That morning, I had a meeting with my manager, Jason Dover, and I got a text message from a player at a rival club asking if I was coming to Melbourne. I just laughed and went, ‘What are you talking about? I’m signed for Fever next year.’

 

This other player said, ‘Nah, I’ve got it on good authority that the club has just signed Alice Teague-Neeld’. I knew that Jhaniele Fowler was also signed for the 2019 season, so I was starting to wonder whether I was being blindsided. I actually sent that exact question to one of the Fever assistant coaches.

 

On the Thursday we met with Stacey Marinkovich, the Fever coach, and the CEO, Simon Taylor. The club was supposed to give me a month’s notice, not a day, so that’s another really disappointing thing. I had absolutely no idea of their intentions. Just never saw it coming. I guess they hung me out to dry, to be honest.

 

It was an unusual situation. After the first two years of SSN, about 98 per cent of the players in the entire league were coming off contract, which is just unheard of in any sport. Everyone was a free agent and every club was wanting to secure talent on a long-term deal. I understand Fever were looking to the future, but the way they did it was pretty ordinary and I’m pretty sure they knew that.

 

Even after meeting with Collingwood I was very, very, very close to retiring. As I said to the Fever afterwards: ‘If I had finished playing, would you have been happy with how you let me leave the game after so long and after sticking by the club, in particular, when everyone left after 2016? Because, if you were, then good luck to the next person, if that’s the way you treat people’.

 

I hate how sports are using the excuse that sport is a business as a way to excuse their behaviour and the way they treat people. I’d think in any other business environment, anyone in my position would have had a pretty good leg to stand on and a lot more rights. One thing’s for sure: sport is brutal, uncompromising and unpredictable.

 

Despite how rewarding and exhilarating it is – things change very quickly!

 

 

 

THE HARD PHONE CALLS

It was such huge news. When it got announced, I went online and on Twitter and I couldn’t believe the reaction. And obviously it’s still news because people are still talking.

 

With the events that unfolded afterwards and the things that Fever continued to put out in the media, I went offline for a little bit because it just became too overwhelming. There was so much support but it was so much to take in. I felt bad sort of disappearing, but I felt like that was the only thing that I could do to process it all and keep functioning.

 

The first thing I said to my manager was, ‘This was not my doing, so there’s no way that I’m being made to look like I’ve walked out on this club’. People on the outside, particularly, like to blame players for not being loyal.

 

But, at 34, I was left without a job. With only one day of my contract left, I was like, ‘Shit, I’ve got nothing to go to.’ I was putting things in place thinking I had one year left and that I would then probably finish.

 

I’d bought a house, I had a mortgage, I was talking about doing renovations, which I had chatted to Stacey about, and I was in a new relationship, so they knew where I was in my life.

 

There was a lot that Fever tried to twist and, I think, fabricate. It was just disappointing that they felt the need to say things that were 100 per cent lies.

 

The other thing is that I didn’t want the players to find out from someone else or to read it in the media. If the club had been decent enough to let me tell them in person, that would have been my ideal way of doing it. The chance to thank my supporters would have also been nice.

 

But the club sent me through a draft of the press release they were putting out on the Friday afternoon and the time they were doing it. I was only given one hour to try to contact people before its release. 

 

They were some of the hardest phone calls I’ve had to make.

 

I only ended up getting to talk to four players and that was horrible as well, just because I felt like I had to rush through the conversations so I could get onto the next one within such a short time frame. Some of the girls were in tears.

 

You form some pretty close relationships. I had really strong friendships with Verity Charles and Jess Anstiss, in particular. And the fact that I then had to send out a text message to everyone else wasn’t the way I would like to have done it.

 

One of the girls I did speak to already knew. I felt that was just a lack of respect because that one thing that I asked the club for was to be able to tell the players myself. And it was unfair to the player, who had to lie and pretend to me that she didn’t know. Yeah, the whole thing was pretty full-on.

 

There was a big backlash against the club over the next few days, so at the start of the following week I guess they decided to go into a bit of damage control. They claimed that I had other offers on the table, to imply that I was already speaking to clubs, which was not at all the case. They said that the timing of the announcement was all on our end – mine and my manager’s. Also not true.

 

There was a lot that Fever tried to twist and, I think, fabricate. It was just disappointing that they felt the need to say things that were 100 per cent lies.

 

 

 

I caught up with Stacey before Christmas. Having moved a few times previously, I’ve always wanted to try and leave on good terms with a club. I still have a really great relationship with Rose Jencke after leaving Firebirds; I learnt that from leaving Thunderbirds and the stuff that went on there that, unless it’s completely broken, then it’s important to try to maintain some sort of relationship or level of respect.

 

So I was glad that, when the time was right, Stacey and I were able to talk. We’re on friendly terms.

 

I can only hope the goal I set out with to have a positive impact at the club and bring some success to it was achieved.

 

 

             

 

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