‘Here if ya need’

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Author Trent Dalton recently wrote an article for the Weekend Australian that both touched my heart and reinforced the huge role our female friends play in our mental and emotional health.

It was about a group of young Perth mums who formed a community netball team in 1984.

They called themselves the Bayswater Boilers after the suburb they were in. ‘Here if ya need’ was their team motto.

While they threw themselves into playing, netball was clearly about more than winning games. It got them out of the house, gave them time to themselves and created a support network.

True to the spirit of their motto they’ve been there for each other ever since, through not only motherhood but cancer, divorce and depression. They were there when a husband walked out and a son fell into drug addiction.

Fixtures continued until 2000. By then their bodies had had enough of leaping about a netball court.

But two decades after their last game, as one said, “every boiler knows that if they ever need anything, we’ll all be there”.

Three have battled breast cancer and one has had a brain tumour. In 2011 their goal shooter Leonie died, with two of the boilers at her bedside.

As Trent pointed out, they’ve also been through a recession, job cuts and fights for equality. Add a pandemic to that.

Now in their 60s and 70s they’re still a source of strength and sanity for each other. Delightfully, their daughters have grown up together and are also close.

While this wasn’t a story about women’s health, it very much is.

I think it resonated because I’ve seen it so often. I love the way connections with neighbours, school friends, walking groups, yoga groups and so on over time can turn into something profound and wonderful.

Years ago a Victorian photographer named Meme McDonald noticed a group of older women swimmers at her local baths. She started talking to them and taking their photos, and eventually wrote a book about them called Put Your Whole Self In.

Sadly, Meme died way too young, but I’ll never forget her book and its extraordinary black and white photos.

Like the Bayswater Boilers the women she wrote about were far more than fellow swimmers. They helped each other over life’s hurdles, gave each other hope.

I grew up in a little country town. It so happens that I now live around the corner from my best friend from grade 12. I was her bridesmaid and we’ve lived through each other’s marriages, her children, her husband’s death and grandmotherhood. We mind each other’s pets, swap books, see shows together.

It’s a reminder that even in the midst of such an odd year there’s much to be grateful for. Boiler-friends for one.


Photo Source: The Weekend Australian

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