Tribute to Betty Spillane, a one-of-a-kind

Submitted by ashbury on 26 February 2023 - 3:32pm

PhotoThe sadness and grief felt by Betty’s many friends, players (past and present) and officials of the Ashbury Netball community and the wider Inner West community cannot be expressed in words.  Her accomplishments and achievements speak for themselves; but how do you describe an icon, a woman of great strength and vision – a one-of-a-kind.

As I put my memories together (listening to my washing machine run through a load of training bibs after grading; and she wasn’t there), I reflect on not so much Betty’s accomplishments, as highlighted by the Inner West Netball Association, but on Betty as a person, her love of her family, watching tennis (especially Roger Federer, a love she shared with my Mum) and her desire to be involved in anything ‘netball’.  Her call to be of help – ‘I can do that, you don’t have time to do that' was her catch-phrase.  Most Saturdays, she would ask for any tags we had to be dropped to her so that she could wash and iron them ready for the following week; pre-season training when she would call and pick up training bags to take to the training ground; source and buy brooms and squeegees to sweep the training courts and making sure that coaches and players were prepared and had everything they needed.  She had a comprehensive library of netball books, training manuals, umpiring rule-books (and a bag of whistles that went through the dishwasher every week) plus other resources which she shared with everyone.

Betty Spillane has been involved in all things ‘NETBALL’ for over 50 years.  Netball and St Francis Xavier's and Ashbury Netball Club were her second family. 

At Club level Betty was a player for St Francis Xavier’s Netball Club from 1972-1979 (and she would tell you she was accident-prone), she attained her AANA C Badge in 1979, was a Level One Coach from 1983, Treasurer from 1999-2009 and Club Coaching Convenor from 2010-2014.  She was the unofficial fund raiser when it was time for our annual Trivia Nights and BBQs.  She would approach all the local shops in Croydon Park, Croydon and Burwood for donations - very successfully I might add!  She was a regular at the City2Surf Fun Run drink station for 12 years from 2002 (rain or shine).  She ran 250 Clubs (lucky numbers) in some of our lean years to help raise funds for end of year trophies.

Betty coached junior and senior Ashbury teams for more than 40+ years at a minimum of 3-4 teams (and up to 7 one year) during each winter competition.  Her determination and knowledge of the game has made her one of our most successful coaches.  In the last few years when not coaching as much, she would be at the grounds and walk from one end to the other (many, many times up and down during the day), she never seemed to tire, checking our teams, making sure all was well.  She knew most players by name and they knew her.

Betty was much loved by all the players she coached, a number of whom took up the coaching mantle.  She forged long-standing friendships with many players, parents and officials.  She was always available to guide and mentor players, coaches and umpires, her tireless work ethic and dedication to the development, growth and success of our Club and its members is her legacy to us.

'She devoted half her life to Ashbury and I know that she has touched the lives of so many Ashbury netballers across the decades………but I know that the work she did with so many young people will live on in them' (Donna Spillane, Ashbury 50th Anniversary, August 2022).

She was the inaugural winner of the ANC Commemorative Trophy in 1982, the Paula Boland Trophy in 1999.  She was recognised for her contribution to IWNA with the Betty Spillane Trophy (Best Defence Team - Betty loved defences), won by Ashbury Smilers in 1998, Ashbury Saints in 2006 and Ashbury Emeralds in 2018 and was the recipient of the IWSNA Service Award in 2005.

Betty encouraged her four daughters to play netball as well as watching her grand-daughters become involved with the sport.  

2023 will be a year without Betty Spillane, a different year, but it will be a year to celebrate when we endeavour to win the March Past Trophy (all those sessions when she organised marching practice, left, left, left, right left), we did win in 1984 and 1997; and as many premierships as we can in her memory!  Betty loved grand final days, no matter how many teams we had participating.  I know she will be watching!

We extend our heartfelt condolences to her husband of 65 years Don and daughters Donna, Frances, Vicki, Peta and their families.  Betty was a much loved wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.  All of Ashbury mourn with you in your loss. 

We thank you for sharing this one-of-a-kind woman with us, her legacy will live on with our players, coaches, umpires and officials.

Thank you Betty for all you contributed to netball and Ashbury Netball Club over many, many years.  As volunteers, all we do is for the love of the game and you loved it more than most. 

We will forever be Ashbury Netball Club and always in Green and White.  Ashbury means community, family, friendship and contribution, these cornerstones epitomised by Betty Spillane.

Rest now and keep an eye on us from time to time and keep us on the right path and we will try very hard to win the March Past Trophy for you!


Celebration of Life for Betty Spillane

A Requiem Mass will be held at St Vincent’s Catholic Church, Bland Street, Ashfield on Friday 3 March at 10.30am.  Following Mass, the cortege will proceed to Rookwood Catholic Cemetery where Betty will be laid to rest.