Netball great Thoman honoured for half-a-century of service

HONOURED: Fifty years' involvement with the Port Netball Club saw Tricia Thoman honoured by the Port Pirie Netball Association.
HONOURED: Fifty years' involvement with the Port Netball Club saw Tricia Thoman honoured by the Port Pirie Netball Association.

"It's like netball is in my DNA."

With these words, Port Netball Club stalwart Tricia Thoman summed up half-a-century of service with the sport.

Thoman was bestowed an honourary associate membership for 50 years of involvement with the sport by Port Pirie Netball Association at the opening of the 2019 season.

"It blew me away. I never even stopped to think that I was at 50 years," she said.

"One year just rolls into the next."

With her mother, netball great Launa Conlin, one of the founding members of Port Netball Club, Thoman was always destined to be part of the club and sport her mother was so passionate about.

But the strong family connection to Port wasn't an automatic rite of passage for Thoman, she worked hard to build a successful netball career.

Thoman found her niche in the sport, she was a talented goalie, but initially she was a centre when Conlin was her coach with her mother saying she had to earn her position.

"Mum said I had to earn my stripes. She was really big on social justice," she said.

"Her philosophy was the harder you work, the better you get," she said.

That philosophy rubbed off on Thoman who would practise 100 goals a day and held the belief that if she practised hard and missed the first few, she knew it would still be okay.

Her netball career started as a junior playing for St Mark's while a student of the college.

With netball identities in her life like her mother and Marge Lemm, she was never short of inspiration.

By the age of 16, she joined her beloved Port and made the leap to A Grade.

Recalling her involvement with the sport at a young age, she paid tribute to her mother as her role model.

"She was a great netballer," Thoman said.

Her father built a goal post in the backyard and her spare time was spent fine-tuning her skills.

"Mum and I would be in the backyard practising goals," she said.

Practise work stretched far beyond just simple shooting as mother and daughter would work on technique.

After joining Port's A Grade side, Thoman soon made her mark in the squad and became an integral player for the club in its most famous of eras when it contested 10 straight grand finals and impressively won six consecutive flags.

A legendary netballer in her own right, she was awarded Port Pirie Netball Association's player of the year twice, has premiership wins under her belt as both a player and coach, was a South Australian Country State representative and has her name etched on the Malycha Cup.

Thoman paid tribute to fellow Port stalwart, Deb Hayes, with the pair sharing a long netball journey together over the years.

"She has been my netball companion through the whole journey," she said.

Thoman and Hayes played together in premierships and then Thoman was her coach.

"We've got each other's backs," she said.

Speaking of the highlights of her extensive netball career, naturally premiership wins rate highly but one unique moment stands out.

Conlin also was honoured as a Malycha Cup winner and 11 years later Thoman was presented with the netball honour, with their plaques sitting side-by-side.

Another special moment for Thoman was being able to play alongside her daughter, Amber.

She had already been coaching her daughter's team but when a player was injured Thoman stepped into play.

"It was pretty special," Thoman recalled. "She was wing attack, I was goal attack."

She instilled the same ethos into her daughter, Amber. Just like her own early netball days, Thoman made Amber earn her stripes.

"I was pretty tough on Amber as a coach," she said.

While Amber was playing and Thoman was coaching, Conlin would be out at the netball complex as well -- three generations flying the flag.

"Mum would be on the bench next to me," she said.

Even in her later years, Conlin would come to netball when she could and remained her daughter's biggest supporter and mentor.

Today, Thoman continues to honour her mother's memory when presenting the Anzac Medal, named in honour of Conlin, and the Conlin Cup presented to a junior netballer on grand final day. The award recipients receive information on Conlin, put together by Thoman, something she describes as important so players know the background of the woman who the trophy honours.

"Netball was mum's life," she said.

Looking at the years ahead, Thoman aims to be involved in the sport and club she is so passionate about for as long as she can.

"It's part of my life. It's part of what I do," she said.

"I want to give back to the club that's given me an amazing pathway.

"I feel like I've been part of the journey."