Champion Yarrawonga netballer and coach Bridget Cassar will play her 200th A Grade game for Yarrawonga at home this Saturday against Corowa Rutherglen, starting at 2.00pm.
“I know it seems a lot of games. You enjoy it because of the people you’re involved with. The likes of Tracey (Gillies) and Vicki (Long) are long standing servants of the club,” the 31-year-old told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“I enjoy the company of lots of girls - some of them are my best friends over 20 years. The three Bourke sisters, the four Davis sisters, the two Leslie girls, the three Tyrells, the two Ramsdale sisters - all have been around a long time. They’re great friendships and great family friendships as well.”
Victorian representative, Ovens and Murray representative, coach of four A Grade Yarrawonga premierships in her personal seven club premierships and two A Grade best and fairest awards represent a big part of a most impressive netball career to date for Bridget.
It all started at age “four or five” for Bridget Tait, at Rennie, where her Mum, Kay was starring for the club. “She was ‘the best wing attack going around’ according to Dad (Robert Tait),” Bridget said.
“Dad was coaching (football) and Mum was playing, umpiring and scoring netball.” Bridget began her competition netball with Rennie’s Little Midgets team and then juniors.
Bridget’s five-year-older sister Janna joined Yarrawonga, starred and subsequently played in premierships and her little sister was also keen to join the club. “I just loved netball and wanted to play at Yarrawonga,” Bridget said.
The thoughts at the time by Dad were “you’re too little” but “it would be good experience”. “Tracy Gillies said to me ‘if you want to come and train you’re more than welcome’ and I wanted to keep training,” Bridget said.
Bridget played two seasons with Yarrawonga’s C Grade for one premiership and played in two B Grade premierships. In Round 1 this year, she notched up her 200th game for the club. Most of Bridget’s on court appearances have been goal shooter, but also includes goal attack.
While at secondary school, when aged 15, 16 and 17, she played national netball, representing Victoria in Victoria State and Victorian Catholic Schools competitions, the latter also including New Zealand.
Victoria won two Catholic Schools titles and one State title; Bridget captained both Victorian teams in her second year.
At age 18, she played Championship Division in Melbourne with Hume Falcons for two seasons and in London for four years playing the equivalent of Super Netball with Hurricanes.
In 2010, Bridget took over the A Grade coaching duties from legendary player and coach Tracy Gillies, and coached for three years. She returned to coaching A Grade three seasons ago, co-coaching with Laura Bourke last year and is sole coach for 2017.
“Bridget’s probably been one of the most talented players I’ve played with and coached,” O and M Hall of Famer Tracy said.
”She started A Grade as a 14-year-old, a very skinny kid, so much talent from the outset and a very mature understanding of the game. She always tried anything I asked her to do and she did it so well.”
An O and M representative over five years, Bridget is highly regarded by league officials. “Bridget’s impact is second to none as a player in the O and M. She’s represented interleague, association championships,” O and M Football Netball League board director Kim Odewahn told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“I can remember Bridget in the grand-final of 2002 when she was quite young. I remember the winning coach, the Wodonga coach (Kelli Moylan) saying ‘that young girl has a bright future’. I’ve watched her grow as an individual, player and coach. She is Yarrawonga.
“It’s a credit to her. She has good players around her but she’s outstanding, just a stalwart.”
Bridget, who married painter Anthony Cassar in 2013 and is an enrolled nurse at Yarrawonga hospital, described her parents as “’wonderful”. “I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been given lots of opportunities. It’s been a lot of time out of their lives. They’re been so dedicated,” she said.
“I also thank Tracy very much, for influencing my netball, not only as a player but also as a coach. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s been so dedicated and is a wonderful friend. I still learn things from her.
“I also want to mention Vicki Long. She’s a backbone of Yarrawonga netball from the administration side.”
The powerful Yarrawonga netball teams have stars on the courts and there are stars providing support off the courts. But to be successful on the court, clubs must have fine leadership and that’s what Bridget continues to provide.
*In history making Bridget and her dad will this Saturday become the first father-daughter to each play 200 senior games with Yarrawonga.