In the 1930s, the All-Australian Women’s Basketball* Association passed a motion requiring players to be silent during games. Melbourne Vixens’ captain Kate Moloney laughs when I tell her this story.
‘I wouldn’t have survived,’ she says.
Moloney is famously vocal on court, constantly encouraging her teammates. And then there’s her signature point and clap move.
‘There’s that vocal side with the encouragement but there’s also that directive side in getting messages across whether that be from the bench or on court, and it really is a vocal sport in that sense. So I’m not sure how we would survive these days if we were told we had to be silent on the court. I know I would definitely struggle with that. It’s something that comes quite naturally to me, that communication out on court.’
It’s not the only thing that comes naturally to Moloney. After following the Netball Victoria pathway to the elite level, Moloney joined the Vixens in 2013. In her debut year, she was the youngest player on the list.
‘I remember walking into my first training session and there were all these players who I’d grown up watching on TV and I never thought that I’d actually play alongside them.’
When I ask her about that first year, she recalls her debut game.
‘I came on at three quarter time—I probably came on because we were up by a lot—and it was the fastest 15 minutes of my life. It went so quick. But I think ever since that moment I’ve just wanted to be back out there and tried to take every opportunity I possibly could.’
A natural leader
Moloney’s leadership attributes were clear early. Only three years after debuting, she was co-vice captain of the Vixens. So when the announcement of the Suncorp Super Netball competition in 2016 saw the departure of Vixens Captain Madison Robinson and co-Vice Captain Geva Mentor, Moloney was a natural pick to lead the team.
‘I’m not sure if I ever thought that I would have been captain but I definitely felt that I was in a position and I was ready to step up and take on that role. I felt that the team needed me to do that. And I felt that I could do that.
‘It was an absolute huge honour to be named the captain of the Vixens. I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s definitely been one of the most rewarding and challenging things that I’ve done and it’s something that I continue to try and grow, is that leadership role.
“It was an absolute huge honour to be named the captain of the Vixens.
I’ve loved every minute of it.”
‘I’ve been really lucky to have some great leaders around me at the Melbourne Vixens who I’ve been able to learn a lot from. But I think, you know, you’re put into that position for a reason. That was the message that really carried on to me: you were put in that position for the things that you were already doing. Yes, you want to get better and do more, but keep doing what you’re doing.
‘For me, that was always about just trying to lead by example, both on and off the court. It was just about trying to bring a group of girls together and get them on the same path and try and achieve something really great. I think that’s what we’ve been trying to build towards since.’
A diamond debut
Alongside the captaincy, 2017 also saw Moloney debut with the Australian Diamonds. She credits the Vixens’ 2017 season—the team were minor premiers before a disappointing finals series—with her selection for the Australian team.
‘The team just worked really well together that year. I think that team success really helped me in terms of being able to get a go with the Diamonds as well. Which was an absolute dream come true. Being able to put on the green and gold and represent your country is amazing.
‘I was playing in Adelaide, and having my family and everyone there. Yeah, it was a pretty amazing experience to be able to do that. And you definitely never take any opportunity to represent your country for granted.’
Playing alongside your heroines
Moloney is cognisant of the rich history of the sport she has played professionally for eight years.
‘Whether that be with the Diamonds or with the Vixens, to be part of netball and a sport that I suppose has really led the way for women’s sport for so long and to think that we’ve got where we are now.
“There’s so many great netball role models that I’ve been able to look up to and watch.”
‘When I first started the girls I was playing with, what they were getting paid and the facilities and everything that they had compared to what we have now and how much they fought to make sure that netball was in a really good position. We have to be so thankful and grateful for the people who have come before us in netball.’
Netball heroines I ask? There’s been a few for Moloney. She mentions Natasha Chokljat—‘I’m not sure if it was because she played center and I like to play in the mid court or her last name was chocolate and I just really liked chocolate at the time’— and Bianca Chatfield.
‘I was really lucky to watch someone like Bianca Chatfield and then have her as my captain and play alongside her. I remember she came and spoke at my school when I was in year 10 or 11. To then play alongside her was pretty amazing.
‘We’ve got some incredible role models in netball. Whether that be Sharelle McMahon, who’s my assistant coach, who’s probably the best player to ever play, arguably. There’s so many great netball role models that I’ve been able to look up to and watch.’
A rising tide lifts all boats
The changing landscape of women’s sport—better pay and facilities and opportunities—is not limited to netball. I ask Moloney what it’s been like, living that change as a professional athlete and how she views the landscape of women’s sport today.
‘Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I’ve always said I’ve been really lucky to be a part of sport where females have always dominated. Females are your captains , they’re your coaches, they’re your general managers in netball. And I’ve never felt like I’ve had a limit put on me whereas some other females playing in sports where it is very male dominated might have.
‘I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have been a part of a sport that has really led the way for women’s sport.
‘Seeing [netball] go from when I very first started and what you were getting paid to it now being double that and being on Channel Nine, people being able to watch and young girls being able to watch and really aspire to play netball or to play any sport whatever it might be at the top level.
‘I think that’s the biggest thing now is it’s not just netball. It’s AFL, it’s cricket, and girls can grow up just dreaming to be elite athletes at the top level. I think that’s absolutely incredible. I think having more sports now helps netball so much. To have that competition now really makes you want to push the boundaries and keep getting better and just stay in that top position. I think AFL and cricket and the Matilda’s, seeing them do so well just makes you want to continue to really push those boundaries.
‘We need competition in that area to get better because it really does make not only you, but it makes everyone else better as well. I think just the opportunities for young girls to see that there’s so many avenues now is pretty amazing.
Inspiring the next generation
Playing professionally may not have been what motivated Moloney to first pick up a netball as a six-year-old in the outer Melbourne suburb of Diamond Creek. But those early days on suburban courts fostered a love for the game that continues today.
‘I played a few different sports at the time [but] Mum played netball and the girls at school played netball so it was kind of just, I wanted to hang out with my friends on the weekend.
‘And it was from there that my love for the sport grew.
“I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have been a part of a sport that has really led the way for women’s sport.”
‘I feel very lucky to be in the position I am and to be able to play a team sport with so many of my close friends and you do get to make absolutely great friends, but at the same time you’re working together towards something even bigger and I just love the idea of [that]. There’s no better feeling than team success when you work with a group of people that become like your family. To achieve that success, there is absolutely no better feeling. So I love the competitive side of it. But I love being able to do it with a group of like minded females and hopefully really inspire the next generation as well.’
*Until the 1970s, netball was known as basketball. Read more about the history of netball here: 5 moments in the history of netball you may not know about