THE Camperdown and District Netball Association has lost arguably its biggest asset.
Kellie Kempton last week stepped down from the secretary role after 25 years of service.
She commenced in the position as a fresh faced 17 year-old, and through the birth of three children and a major health scare last year, has missed just two seasons whilst living in Warrnambool after completing her high school education.
“It all started when Karen Burgin (Brown) and I decided we were going to enter a team in the ladies comp, so we rocked up to the AGM as each team needed two representatives,” Kempton said.
“Her and I went along and it was a similar situation to now, that everybody who was on the committee had been there a long time and they were looking for some fresh blood, so we put our hands up as 17 year-olds and I’ve pretty much been secretary ever since.”
The long-time servant of the night netball competition has seen many changes over the last quarter of a century including many which she helped to pioneer.
The association was based out of the Theatre Royal complex for the first half of Kempton’s journey, a time she recalls fondly.
“I remember down at the theatre stadium we would have to start our ladies comp at 6pm and we’d still be there well after 10pm just trying to get matches in because we only had one court,” she said.
“We used to get teams from all around the district and it really was a big deal back in those days.
“We were also running a junior competition, so there were some long nights and it really was quite time consuming, but I did it because I loved it.”
Kempton also played a major role in fundraising for the Camperdown Community Stadium in Frederick Street, which saw the netball association contribute a total of $9000 throughout 2003 and 2004.
“I was on the working committee for the stadium as well at that time and whatever money we raised via netball went into that,” she said.
“That’s probably one of the highlights from my time, being able to be involved in giving the community a good home for indoor sports.
“That, and we also donated $1000 to Jake Noonan last year when he got selected in the Australian 23 and under team for the first time to help with his expenses as he’s been a long-time player and umpire with our association.”
Kempton introduced mixed netball once the new stadium opened, a competition which flourished for the first decade.
“The first year I organised a mixed competition we had 12 teams, which was terrific,” she said.
“We really had quite a strong competition for a number of years, usually with about eight teams.”
The mixed competition lives on today in somewhat of a revised format, while the ladies’ competition wound up in 2017.
“I was always worried that when I stepped down it would fold, but I think with the introduction of Rock Up Netball (a joint initiative of Netball Victoria and VicHealth) it has breathed new life into the association,” Kempton said.
“We were really struggling for numbers the last few years in all competitions which ultimately saw the ladies’ comp fold.
“But this Rock Up Netball is really just a social competition, where you turn up and we play music on court during the games and the emphasis is really just on having fun.”
In 2015, Kempton was presented with life membership and also received a gold bracelet for 20 years of service to the association, however those who have been involved with night netball in Camperdown know that her legacy will carry on for much longer.
Kempton has been there through the highs and the lows, but leaves content with her contribution.
She has served as secretary alongside president Tanya Fleming since 2003, with Kelly Howard acting as treasurer for the majority of that period, with the trio all opting to move on from their posts as of this week.
Kempton said the decision to walk away was not easy, but after seeing so many people who were willing to fill the role during the recent annual general meeting, believes she has left the association in good hands.
“It has been 27 years since it all started,” she said.
“I just thought the time was right.
“I’m not playing anymore, just umpiring and that’s something I probably don’t need to be dedicated to anymore either.
“I’ve been contemplating it for the last few years and since we are really financially stable, I just thought now’s the time to hand it over.”