WITH a school principal as a father, a teacher aide as a mother and various siblings in the teaching game, it was probably inevitable that Karen Petrie would eventually succumb to the calling. The accomplished netball player still managed to juggle teacher training with her sport commitments, and now she is teaching at Wallangarra State School she is hoping to boost local interest in the sport.
Sydney-born Karen played in the national netball competition for the now-defunct Sydney Sandpipers in 1997 before moving onto the Sydney Swifts and eventually the Queensland Firebirds. This was after helping the Australian under 21 team to take out the world championship in 1996.
“Mum was always into netball as a player, umpire, coach, administrator.., and my older sister also played so it was inevitable that I would as well,” Karen said.
“I did well at it and loved it, and I had good parents that would drive us all around to our sporting commitments, including my two younger sporty brothers.”
Karen earned a degree in human movement and studied sports management and marketing in Sydney, setting her up for several years of juggling netball commitments while supplementing the quite meagre playing fees offered at the time. She worked for Netball Australia while playing with the Swifts, until she met up with Tenterfield boy Damien Petrie and the two headed to Brisbane.
There she was able to combine working for Netball Queensland and promotional work for B105 radio with her Firebirds commitments. She completed her Diploma of Education by correspondence while working in Griffith University’s sports department, launching her into the classroom for several years before the family returned to Damien’s roots.
In her playing days, Karen generally filled the centre or wing attack position, so her fitness levels were very high. Three children later, however …
“Life changes,” she said.
Son Thomas wasn’t quite 13 months old when his twin sisters arrived, but now they are a little older, Karen is venturing back into the teaching work but very keen to maintain a family/work balance. She currently teaches two days a week and will reassess the situation regularly as the children grow.
She is also keen to get the netball rolling again in the Tenterfield region, starting with her students at Wallangarra. While she’s up against soccer as the term 2 sport, Karen said she’ll be working on netball skills and games with the children for the remainder of this year with a view to entering a team in the local schools competition next year.
Given all her connections, she is also hoping to organise a visit from a Firebird in the foreseeable future.
So does she barrack for the Swifts or Firebirds when the teams compete?
“That’s hard,” she said. “My heart’s with both.”