Wendy Sidebottom’s 550th game headlines successful Unity Cup day at Congupna

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One of many highlights: Wendy Sidebottom (middle second row) celebrates a C-grade premiership in 2014. Photo by Ray Sizer

There is no name more revered at Congupna Recreation Reserve than Sidebottom.

And while many would immediately think of 272-game Collingwood midfielder Steele, at the weekend it was netball legend Wendy Sidebottom that stole the headlines, playing her 550th game on what was a special day for the Congupna Football Netball Club.

Suiting up in the C-reserve clash, which the Road lost 63-29, Sidebottom said she wanted to keep the milestone very low-key.

“It is pretty amazing (to have played 550 games of country netball),” Sidebottom said.

“It was very minimal (preparations) and very low-key, I just slipped on to that court to play the game and slipped off at the end.

“I didn’t want any fanfare or anything like that.”

While the game itself didn’t deliver the storybook ending a player of Sidebottom’s standing deserves, she said it was still fantastic to take to the court with the club’s up-and-coming players and help guide their development.

“The wind was a bit of a challenge but Rumba is such a great team, it was difficult for our girls who are young and learning,” she said.

“I am just there (on the court) to help guide our young girls, encourage them and it has been really good.

“Even from the start of the year I have seen so much improvement, and as an experienced player it is great to see.”

A career filled with incredible highlights, she said it had been the bonds with others at the club and her love of the game that had kept her going this long.

“The game has changed in lots of ways (since I started),” she said.

“But it is still about playing with teammates, supporting your club and just enjoying yourself out on court.

“The reason I have played this long is I just love the game.”

The milestone was made all the more special for Sidebottom as Congupna hosted the Unity Cup for the first time in over a decade.

A day that celebrates the contributions of women in community sport, she said it was an honour to have her milestone fall on such a special occasion.

“It is a special day, it is nice that it (the milestone) has fallen on this day,” she said.

“The girls were trying to hold off and plan something big but I just said I want nothing, I just wanted to play it and be part of such a special day.

“I am happy to have it ticked off the bucket list, but the milestone was only a small part of what today is all about.”

Welcoming the event back to the Congupna Recreation Reserve for the first time in almost 10 years, Congupna president Jack Hicks said the day was a big success.

“Unity Cup means bringing the multiculturalism together from all around the local region and to celebrate the contributions of women in sport,” Hicks said.

“This is the first year we have hosted here at Congupna in over a decade, so it is pretty exciting to have it back here and it is lovely to see how many people here celebrating what is a great cause.”

As for whether Sidebottom can see herself pushing that coveted 600-game milestone, she said it would be very unlikely.

“Nope, this is it I think,” she said.

“My 500th game, I played with my four daughters, my two sisters and my mum tossed the coin, so that was the highlight of my career and a milestone memory I’ll cherish forever.”