Hong Kong netball player finds sport and work feed off each other

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 6:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2015, 6:12am

What does it take to be at the top of your game - and your career? This month we meet three Hong Kong sports representatives who are flying high in the workplace and sports arena.

 

At 188cm tall, Krystle Edwards has the makings of a natural athlete. But it wasn't until she moved to Hong Kong in her 20s that she put her gift to good use.

Edwards (below), 31, is the goal shooter on Hong Kong's netball team and one of the best in Asia. At the 2014 Asian Netball Championships in Singapore, she was the second-highest-scoring shooter in round-robin games with an 86 per cent average.

Since qualifying to play internationally three years ago, she's played 21 games for Hong Kong while managing a career in recruitment. Edwards is a director at search firm Proco Global.

Although the Australian grew up playing netball, she credits the experience she's gained in Hong Kong with transforming her from an amateur to a national representative.

"My height early on was a huge advantage: the netball ring is 3.05 metres high, so with my arms outstretched, I'm pretty close to the ring. But I've always been lanky, not strong, and had no head for the game."

She arrived in 2010, and although she once played basketball competitively at university, she intended to play netball only socially. Then she was selected for the top team for the Valley Rugby Football Club netball team.

"I thought: 'Are you kidding me?' I was basically playing basketball and constantly breaking the rules, but my coach saw something in me."

The team went on to finish second in the league.

The next year, Edwards moved to the Hong Kong Cricket Club netball team and found her niche. "I grew up in a little town called Batemans Bay, about four hours south of Sydney … The HKCC has become my little town in this big city." She's now the club's netball convenor.

Although setting aside most of her weeknights to train is tough, especially when she also manages a team, she says her improvement in netball and her main career with Proco Global go hand in hand.

"Work and netball feed each other. My experience at work managing a large team and solving problems has boosted my game, as it's given me the confidence to react quickly, think outside the box and make good decisions on court.

"A balanced lifestyle and an outlet for competition make me a better manager, and once you step onto the court, you have to leave all your stress behind."

Netball is supposedly a non-contact sport, but playing at the elite level, you get completely knocked around. Playing at the 2014 Asian Championships, I came home covered with the biggest bruises you've ever seen.

To prepare for international tournaments I train to shoot with rugby bags and boxing gloves. One player throws me a high ball while my coach uses a rugby bag to push me around. Another player will simultaneously punch and pull my arms down with boxing gloves, while a stereo blasts crowd noises at top volume. You have to hold your own and stand strong; otherwise, you get knocked over.

We also play against a top men's side once a week to prepare for stronger sides, like Malaysia and Singapore. The men are tall, fast and, of course, physically stronger, so it's a good match-up. Our national coach, Connie Wong, gave the men a few training sessions so we can work on defence in our games.

Being a good shooter is 100 per cent about having confidence. If you miss a shot - and you will miss a shot - you can't let it rattle you. Before my debut at the 2012 Asian Netball Championships in Sri Lanka, I used to get so freaked out about missing a shot and letting the team down. But then something clicked in my game. Now my confidence is rock solid.

When we play in Sri Lanka, where netball is second only to cricket, the team feels like professional athletes. We always play in front of a huge stadium full of people with TV cameras; at the 2012 Asian Championships, the president's wife gave a speech.

Training sessions finish at 9pm, so you're not eating dinner until 10. Then you have to wake up and do it all over again. During the lead-up to a tournament, I cut out alcohol and will train six days a week. It can be tough, but I thrive off it; I wouldn't change anything.

Netball is a phenomenal game for women. You have to back each other up and work as a team. In basketball I could take the ball back up and down the court alone. But without my teammates in netball, I'm nothing.