The Cleveland family is holding court at Valley Netball.
The Clevelands have been involved in the club since the start – Di played in the first senior team in 1991, and her daughter, Mikayla, is now president of the club.
Over the years, Di has held many roles within the club – serving as secretary in 1994, president in 1995 – and played for more than 20 years.
With her daughters, Mikayla and Whitney, playing for Valley now, she still keeps an active role on the sidelines.
Valley Netball Club was formed in 1991 in association with Valley Rugby Club, which was established in 1989 as an amalgamation of Union, Enfield and Weston rugby clubs.
The netball club’s first annual meeting was held on March 12, 1991, and Denise Ramage, Denise More and Thea Farquharson were elected as president, secretary and treasurer respectively.
Di’s husband Jeff played rugby for Valley, and she was a keen netball player, so she “tagged along” and played in the club’s first senior competitive team.
She has very fond memories of her time with the club – “they were just the best days” – and enjoyed hearing Mikayla talk about today’s socials and events, which were still very popular.
Mikayla (24) started playing netball for Valley as a junior, and rejoined the club when she left St Kevin’s College.
Like Di, she had also made good friends through the club – it was all about the people, she said.
She even met her fiance, Cameron Rowland, through Valley.
Mikayla also enjoyed how competitive the club was.
In more recent years, Valley has been a powerhouse in the North Otago premier competition, winning the Jessie Allen Trophy every year from 2014 to 2018, and again last year.
Denise More, who helped establish Valley Netball, said seeing the club still going strong 30 years later brought her a great deal of pride.
“We started it because we were all involved in the rugby club, and everyone just said ‘why don’t we start a netball club’,” More said
“We just cracked into it and set it up – and it just went from strength to strength, really.
“Where have those 30 years gone?”
Two Valley teams – one social and one competitive – were entered in the North Otago competition in 1991.
By 1993, the club had five teams.
In 1997, Valley Blue won the 1.2 competition and was promoted to the premier grade for the first time. In 1999, Valley Blue won the Jessie Allen Trophy.
More said the final was played between Valley and Kurow at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre at night. The team was coached by Denece Rae, “an amazing coach, and an amazing lady”.
One of the main strengths of Valley Netball was its association with the rugby club, she said.
“When you get the guys, you get the girls – when you get the girls, you get the guys.”
It was also a very family-oriented and social club – it was tradition to go to the Weston clubrooms after netball games on Saturdays.
“You finished up your netball game, and away you went out to the clubrooms – we had some very long nights out there.”
Valley junior netball started a few years after the senior teams were established.
More recalled about 60 children showed up to the first registration day.
Her involvement with Valley ended in about 2012, when her daughters moved on from junior netball.
She was proud of how it had grown and evolved over the past 30 years.
“It’s awesome to see it still going, and still strong.
“The young ones of today have grown it and developed it and changed it – and that’s what it’s all about.
“From my perspective, it’s pretty cool to think that 30 years ago [we] put all those things in place and set that platform.”