Owethu Ngubane couldn’t contain her excitement when she was announced as one of the 24 Spar Proteas who earned contracts with Netball South Africa. Her mother, Ntombifuthi Ngubane was the first person she called to celebrate this milestone. Although she is yet to don the green, the pair are quite proud of how far she has come.
“The first person I told was my mom because it was exciting for me. I have reached my first goal, now what’s next. It was exciting for me to find out that I was one of the contracted netball players, now I stand a chance to play in the World Cup. That, for me, it was everything because I had been dreaming about being in a Spar Proteas team. My mom, being alongside me, supporting me, she was more excited than me. She was quite happy,” she remembers.
The goal shooter’s journey wasn’t something she particularly chose for herself. Her Grade 4 teacher at Allingham Primary School made her join the schools team but she got hooked for life.
“I didn’t chose netball, netball was chosen for me. My Grade 4 teacher said I was ‘tall and you deserve to play netball, let me put you in my team. Let’s go play netball,’ so since from then I started loving netball,” she remembers.
Her journey saw her representing several provincial teams in KwaZulu Natal this later saw her taking to court for the KwaZulu Natal Kingdom Stars in the Telkom Netball League in 2021. Ngubane was one of the players that Marguerite Rootman lost to a Gauteng team when she moved to the University of Johannesburg where she is completing her Diploma.
She also selected for the national Under-21 side, Baby Proteas. She was also selected to represent South Africa at this year’s Confederation of Universities and Colleges Sports Association (CUCSA) event, which was held in Malawi, the team led by Jenny van Dyk won the tournament in the colours of University Sport South Africa. One of her other bigger highlights of her career, is being part of the team that dethroned the Gauteng Jaguars from the Telkom Netball League throne, the Gauteng Golden Fireballs stunned the four time champions to win their first ever title in the nineth edition of the tournament.
Ngubane has been part of the national team that has been having constant training camps in Stellenbosch which forms part of the preparations of the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town and the Quad Series set for early that year. She says she is learning quite a bit from the experienced Proteas.
“For me it’s a big thing, it has helped me grow as a player. Being inspired by Bongiwe Msomi, more so because she’s my captain at national and her being my coach at UJ. I look up to her, even the other players in the Proteas team like Lenize (Potgieter) and Shadine (van der Merwe), all those players. They inspire me, I look up to them. It has been exciting for me to learn more and grow,” she says.
An athlete’s ultimate dream is to represent their country at an international stage, Ngubane is no different and says she will continue working hard until she gets the opportunity to be in coach Dorette Badenhorst’s 12-player team in a competitive match.
“My goal was wanting to be in the Spar Proteas but that has happened already but I haven’t played yet. But it is still my dream to actually play. Even though I am a contracted player, I still want to represent my country. Being scouted in other countries, being seen, being exposed to other leagues. I want to play, I want to go far with netball. I believe that if I put in the work, I will get to play outside of the country,” she says.
The road transport and logistics management student at the University of Johannesburg realises that it won’t be so easy to walk into the final squad that will represent South Africa in Cape Town next year but she says she is not scared of putting hard work in her game that will help her get into that team.
“Just to carry on working, keeping my fitness and just carry on learning more new things and improving as a player. I want to be that player,” she says.
She hopes that her short journey so far will also inspire other young netball players who also dream of representing South Africa at international level that it is possible with a lot of hard work.
“Now that I am a contracted Protea, there are people that look up to me so I want to let those people know that you can reach your goal as a player and anything is possible. Being contracted is a big step but also it’s not just about being contracted, it is about learning and it is not easy,” she says.