International Women's Day 2021: Natalie Morris

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we have spoken to five incredible members of the Netball Family who all #ChooseToChallenge. 

Displaying resilience and determination, all these women either thrive working in a role or field some may perceive to be gender biased, continue to break down barriers or successfully challenge age stereotypes. 

In this article, we are delighted to feature Senior Writer at Metro Newspaper and co-host of The Netball Show, Natalie Morris from London.  

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We spoke to Natalie about the launch and development of The Netball Show, what’s next for netball, and more. 

On life in lockdown 

“Lockdown has been a rollercoaster. I think it’s been challenging in lots of ways, being plucked from your life and everything that you recognise. I’m very lucky – I live with my boyfriend, we have a nice home and we get on really well. I can work remotely quite easily so in many ways I’ve been really fortunate but at the same time there’s so much that I miss.  

Not seeing my friends and family has been horrible, they’re in Manchester and I’m in London. Not playing netball has been really hard because you can’t replicate it, no matter how many HIIT sessions I do in my living room or how many jogs I do. I tried to start running, that’s been short-lived!  

I live my life very fast-paced so I think going from a hundred to zero is kind of a shock to the system, but it’s also a learning curve. I think it’s taught me a lot about the benefit of slowing down.” 

On the launch of The Netball Show 

“We launched the podcast in 2017. It was the brainchild of Andy Lamb, who’s a huge netball enthusiast and radio / audio producer. I knew him from my days working on the England Netball magazine and talking with journalists, pushing the netball agenda wherever I could. Andy got myself and fellow netball journalist and former international player Sasha Shipway on board, and we’ve just gone from there.  

We started it because we felt at the time there was nothing out there like it, no other netball podcast in the UK. The Netball Family were kind of starved of interaction on media platforms where they could share their love and show their passion. So, we wanted to promote the game, make the players household names and help with that. We are a growing passionate group; our sport is amazing and worthy of wider coverage and much more engagement.  

We’re involved on a totally voluntary basis. We don’t get paid; we do this because we love netball and we want to be part of the conversation. It’s been tricky doing it over lockdown because there hasn’t been any netball, we missed the whole Vitality Netball Superleague so we were then scrambling for content. That is a massive testament to the team, their creativity, innovation and ability to look beyond the basic match report and the discussion of what happened on the weekend, because there’s still so much to talk about.  

I think that the benefit of netball and of the netball world is that we are able to engage with the sport beyond what happens on court. We want to talk about how to train, we also talk about the game at grassroots level, we want to talk about what the players are doing outside of their sport. The players all have special jobs and careers alongside the game, with lots of amazing stories making a real wealth of information and potential for the content. We had to be really creative in that respect and that was definitely challenging but I’ve been encouraged to see how people continue to engage, continue to talk about netball, it’s been on the agenda massively throughout lockdown.  

On The Netball Show gaining acclaim from those in a male-dominated sports media industry 

“It’s incredible, we are the most vocal, passionate and connected fanbase. I think that is part of the main reason why we need a podcast because we have so much energy in our love for the game and we’re so desperate to talk about it. And there’s often not a place for that outlet because it’s not on the back pages of the newspaper or practiced as part of the mainstream conversation.  

We were nominated for an SJA British Sports Journalism Award in 2019, which was a huge honour and surprise. We were up against platforms and podcasts run by the likes of Eastern Daily Press, who had huge money and big names involved, and then we were just there.  

That was a massive honour, a nod to the growth of the game with it being recognised alongside the likes of Peter Crouch’s podcast. We were literally like ‘how are we here?’ but it was amazing to get that recognition and a really encouraging sign for the way the industry is changing, and being more welcoming and respectful towards women’s sport. 

On what’s next for netball 

“Like many, I think that the media and the national sports pages need to start seeing netball’s potential and not just marketed as a game for young girls. Overwhelmingly, it’s adult women and adult men who enjoy the game and now that we have that accessibility of watching it, thanks to Sky’s partnership with England Netball to screen all the games, it’s a huge opportunity for people to see the Vitality Netball Superleague on a scale that hasn’t ever been seen before.  

That is what builds fanbases, long-term support and people really understanding what the game is about. Not just one or two games and not three days after it’s happened, literally live every single game.  

There’s a lot more content creation within the netball community than there has been in the past. There are more podcasts, there’s the QTR Time Podcast and a couple of others. I like the stuff that isn’t too serious as well, we’ve got netball ‘Tik Tokkers’ now. In the wider world of women’s sport, The Telegraph’s women’s sport writers are doing a really great job and it’s nice to see that specific focus on women’s sport.” 

On celebrating International Women’s Day 

“I think International Women’s Day is really important as a celebration of the contribution of women in fields that they’re not necessarily all that celebrated for, and sport is definitely one of those. Netball is one of the only sports that is essentially a women-led game and, as a result, that has meant it’s been a tricky ride to build its fanbase, to get where it is today.  

It’s been harder because it doesn’t have a male equivalent to bounce off in certain ways, it doesn’t have sponsors that are already working with the men’s team that can help out. It doesn’t have a ready-made fanbase and a platform that can accelerate it like other female sports have, which I think makes it even more admirable to see what netball has achieved.  

We can be remarkable in our own right. There are men’s netball teams and I don’t want to erase their contribution and what they do, but this sport is a women’s game and I think it’s really important to celebrate what the netball community has achieved in recent years, and to look ahead to the future and see how far we can go with this. The possibilities are limitless for this game, particularly in the UK. It’s one of the few sports we happen to be very good at and once we’ve brought netball into the mainstream, we are regularly winning medals and winning championships, we will see that growth and continue to build year on year which is really exciting. Women are at the heart of that and we shouldn’t shy away from celebrating them. 

Find out more about all the individuals whose stories we’ll be sharing over the course of the week here.

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