Port Stephens sport spotlight: Helen Scott devotes lifetime to netball in Nelson Bay

The inspiration behind one of the Port's most enduring netball administrators, Helen Scott, stems from a life of ups and downs, of tragedy and loss and of selfless contribution and accomplishment.

A true trailblazer for women's sport, Scott last year walked away from her involvement with netball as a player, umpire, coach and administrator that spanned just about all of her 72 years.

Scott's netball journey has left an indelible mark on the Nelson Bay Netball Association, and on the hundreds of young girls who have come through the junior ranks over her 32 years of commitment and service in Port Stephens.

But retirement from netball has not slowed her down, in fact the proud great grandmother remains as active as ever pursuing other interests while maintaining a close relationship with the lifelong friends she has made along the way.

A Newcastle girl - she was born in Waratah, schooled at Wallsend and grew up in Birmingham Gardens - Scott was first introduced to netball as a six-year-old by her mother, Margaret, who sadly passed away last year aged 92.

"Mum was a sole parent so my sister Kathleen and I would follow her around everywhere and from a very young age we became mascots for her netball team," Scott recalled.

"We had a great childhood and mum made sure we never went without. One of my earliest memories is being woken up early to catch a train - we had no car - into Newcastle to see the Queen."

By age eight Scott had her own netball uniform playing shooter.

"Many of the younger ones today would not be aware of the changes in the sport. Back then netball was known as women's basketball and we played with a lace up leather ball, our shoes were beautifully polished in white and at the start of every season the girls would have an official measure the length of our tunics to make sure they were not too short."

Helen married [Ken Scott] young at age 17 and the couple had three children. There are seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

She lost her husband of 50 years four years ago and a son, Warren, aged 19, in a tragic car accident in 1988 not long after the family had moved from Newcastle to Port Stephens.

Scott admits to having struggled with the death of her only son. "Warren had always said that he wanted to go to Mt Isa to work in the mines, so I pretended he had gone there... it was my way of dealing with the pain."

She admits the tragic loss has been hard on the whole family "but we still talk about him at every opportunity".

"Having lived through his passing and that of my husband and mother in more recent years, I have come to embrace the saying that 'it is better to have loved and lost then not to have loved at all', because never to have loved would have been a terrible thing."

In 1975 Scott made history when she started the first Australian all-male netball competition at Warners Bay, amassing 65 men from a range of trades and professions including butchers, ambulance officers, teachers, wharf workers, miners and even top grade footballers.

Helen Scott at the Nelson Bay courts in 2016.

Helen Scott at the Nelson Bay courts in 2016.

Around the same time she was also elected onto the representative selectors panel of Newcastle Netball Association. And while Scott kept playing the game competitively until the age of 45, it was as a coach, trainer, umpire and administrator where she would excel.

"As soon as we landed in Port Stephens I headed straight to the netball courts to volunteer as a badged umpire and before too long I was umpires convenor."

In the ensuing 32 years she has held the positions of president, secretary, association and rep umpire and coach. Scott was awarded Life Membership of NBNA 17 years ago.

"I came back as president three times because I just loved the team environment, the camaraderie amongst the ladies and the commitment put in by the enthusiastic committee.

"As an administrator you have to be a good listener, and you must be equal and fair. The reason I stayed on was because I had great people around me, we pulled together and worked to achieve our goals. I didn't rule with an iron fist, I made sure everyone had their say and everyone made decisions."

Among those achievements was the upgrading of the courts in Salamander Bay, including the surface, the lights, the seating and the safety of players and spectators.

While Scott has stepped down from her heavy netball engagements, she has retained her position as treasurer of Tomaree Sports Council, crew member of the Port Stephens Dragon Boat Club and now has more time to devote to her work as a volunteer for Port Stephens Koala Hospital.

"I feel for the youth of today, particularly having to go through these lockdowns which are restricting their time with friends and in the outdoors. I have never been one to sit still and my advice to younger people is to get outside wherever possible, even if it's to go walking, head to the beach or go exploring in the backyard."

As a marriage and funeral celebrant trainer, Scott's business has virtually dried up due to the COVID lockdown but her optimism and zest for life has not waned.

"After the unexpected death of Warren I thought 'well, nothing can hurt me now'." It's a mantra that has served her well.

We want to find the people in the Port's sporting community who deserve the spotlight. Whether it's a star athlete, a quiet achiever, a dedicated volunteer, we want to know who they are. In an email titled 'Sport Nomination', send the details including name, sport/club, a brief about the person being nominated and a photo to portstephens@austcommunitymedia.com.au.