Kat joins the 300 club at Churchill

Great day: Katrina Hutchinson pointed to the 2012 A Grade premiership as a highlight from her 300 games with Churchill.





CHURCHILL netballer and A Grade coach Katrina Hutchinson played her 300th match recently.

Hutchinson joins a very exclusive club at the Cougars, being one of only four women to have reached 300 club games. Hutchinson now joins Churchill royalty alongside Nolene McDougall, Stacey Yates (nee Sanders) and Roxy Whitechurch.

Hutchinson brought up the milestone against a formidable Glengarry side in Round 15, who had to win for a chance at finals.

The Churchill team brought home the chocolates for their 300 gamer and coach, but it wasn’t easy. Adding to the grandeur of the occasion, with a finals-feel, the team won the nail-biting game by a single goal.

“It felt really good running out to play my 300th game with the Churchill Football-Netball Club, obviously been around there for a long time now, it’s like family, and the girls in my team this year are next to none,” she said.

Her path to 300 started at a young age, with the netballer beginning her senior career in 2004 at the age of 13.

“I started in 2004, so I was 13-years-old, turning 14 at the end of the season. I played D Grade in goal attack,” Hutchinson recalled.

It was in D Grade that Hutchinson created her netball craft, learning how to play seniors and in a different position.

“It was really eye-opening from juniors, your own age to an open grade at the age of 14,” she said.

“Before I came to Churchill, I played at the Churchill Association indoor competition, and I was always in goal defence. They needed a shooting position, so I transitioned into a goal attack.”

In her first year of open-age netball, Hutchinson took out the D Grade best and fairest. She played one more year of D Grade and worked up to C Grade, where she was also picked to play B Grade finals; following her usefulness in the B Grade side, she played one season in B Grade and then went on to become an integral piece to the Churchill A Grade side, season after season.

Reflecting on her milestone, Hutchinson says she still feels young at heart.

“I don’t think it’s more ‘do I think I could’ve ever played for this long’ because you always feel young at heart, but I always knew that I wouldn’t play at another club,” she said.

A loyal servant to the Cougars, Hutchinson has contributed to the club both on and off the court, calling Gaskin Park home.

“A lot of people my age have played that many games they just don’t stay at the same club,” she said.

“I was always going to stay at the Churchill Football-Netball Club. My loyalty is something that I really pride myself on.”

With experience, Hutchinson has changed how she has played to ensure longevity on the court.

Having played goal attack in D Grade for the first few years, and when coming into B Grade, Hutchinson was exposed to midcourt minutes, where she found her home.

“I used to run around like an energiser bunny just wanting every ball, and now I’ve obviously learnt the smarts of netball – when to go, when not to go,” she said.

“My two most memorable memories are the flags; it’s what we are all chasing each and every year.”

Among the most notable moment is the 2012 Grand Final.

“My A Grade premiership in 2012, it’s a feeling you just can’t describe,” she said.

It was a game for the history books when Churchill defeated Rosedale, 53 to 32. The Blues were the better team all year and got the best of the Cougars earlier in the finals, but upon the big stage, the Churchill team came out firing, leading all game to put the Blues on ice.

Hutchinson described the win as “incredible”.

“It was a sense of sisterhood and like a proudness that you’ve done it for your club, a sense of accomplishment; it’s just an emotional rollercoaster to win a flag,” she said.

“I’ve also coached a D Grade flag which personally I was super proud of as the coach, getting all my players to play for each other and to play for me, so that was really, really rewarding.”

The mother of two celebrated her 300th game on the tamer side in comparison to those premiership wins, heading to the local watering hole for an intimate celebration.

“My celebrations have slowed down over the years, so there wasn’t much of a celebration, just went down to the Churchill Pub for dinner with a few of the girls and a couple of drinks and headed home – times have definitely changed,” she said.

In her tenure, Hutchinson, known to most at Churchill FNC as ‘Kat’ has played with and for many great netballers.

“I have had a lot of respect for both my teammates and coaches over the years,” she said.

“In hindsight, looking up to a role model, the closest would be Rach Patto (Patterson), who taught me the majority of what I know as a player and definitely as a coach. She’s been my role model on and off the court with all things netball.”

Hutchinson’s road to 300 senior games wasn’t without its speed humps.

“I’ve had my fair share of challenges – I played from 2004 to 2017 with no major injuries, and then I fell pregnant with Lacey in 2017. I played half the season until I was about 14 weeks, finished up in July, and I was back for the next season,” she said.

That season the Cougars were on fire, finishing within the top three. Still, for Hutchinson, the fairy tale wasn’t meant to be as in the first final in the second quarter, she went down with a nasty knee injury (ACL) that saw her contemplating giving up netball entirely.

“My recovery was really poor, and I fell pregnant with Blair … trying to recover, plus being pregnant,” Hutchinson found herself in a difficult predicament.

“I wasn’t going to play. I was done, my knee had pain in it all the time,” she said.

Lucky for the club, when A Grade coach at the time, Maddison Burney, asked Hutchinson to return, Hutchinson couldn’t say no.

“I strapped up, and the rest was history, I was back playing netball,” she said.

After three years away from the game, Hutchinson hadn’t missed a beat, slotting herself nicely among the team, and Churchill has remained a formidable side in the North Gippsland competition.

Now integrated into Churchill’s history, Hutchinson has already been integrated into club life membership.

“The club has definitely changed – I’ve seen quite a few presidents in my time,” she said.

“They’ve all had a huge role in where Churchill is today with the infrastructure and the culture.

“This season in particular, the club has a really big vibe around it – there’s a buzz, there’s a feeling of family and wanting the best for each other. So I definitely think the club has changed over the years, but I think we are heading in the right direction,” she added.

“With kids times change, there’s going to be a time where I need to step back from my sporting commitments and let them take the reins.”

Luckily enough for Churchill, that time is not now for Hutchinson.

“I definitely have a lot more in the tank,” she exclaimed.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve got a lot more A Grade games before me, but I’ve definitely got a lot more netball in me.”

The young mum will continue to play a domineering role at the Churchill Football Netball Club as she has always done.

With her A Grade side sitting pretty in the top four of the ladder, perhaps at the end of the season, Hutchinson might add another accolade to her already decorated career.

Winners: The Churchill team got the win for 300 gamer Katrina Hutchinson (pictured back row, right). Photographs supplied