The return of Karla Pretorius on court has plenty of netball fans thrilled. The Spar Proteas goal defence hopes her return to professional netball will inspire the next generation that they would not have to choose between playing netball and starting families. The Sunshine Coast Lighting player may run onto the court for the first time since October 2021 when South Africa toured the United Kingdom where they dominated Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
Pretorius has been named in the squad to face Australia, England, and New Zealand in the Quad Series taking place in Cape Town from 21-25 January. This will be the first time that Cape Town hosts the competition and will be only the third time that South Africa hosts this tournament.
Over the years there have been a number of players who retired from the sport after deciding to start families. Pretorius hopes her return to the court after giving birth to her first child will bring an end to players retiring from the sport prematurely.
“I think it’s (support) very important, obviously being a female athlete you still want to continue with your life off the court, in my instance with a family, but you still want to continue playing. How many players have stopped because they want to have kids?
Nowadays there are so many moms playing. We don’t want to put our sport on hold to start a family or the other way around. We still want to, while having family, continue doing our jobs. Obviously, this is in the new netball era. I think I am the first one in South Africa, currently, to be a playing mom,” said Pretorius.
The 32-year-old stressed the importance of being open with Lighting and the federation about her plans, this way she was able to receive the support she needed in this new journey.
“From the beginning, we were very honest with my club and even Netball South Africa, even before we fell pregnant, that we wanted to expand our family. So everybody was fully aware of what our next step was and even having the conversation with Sunshine Coast Lightning, they still offered me a two-year contract and they were fully supportive of me trying to fall pregnant, and that they would love to have me back after my pregnancy.
"So from the beginning, they were part of (it), they helped me keep fit during and after my pregnancy but also the return-to-play plan afterward. They played a very important role in assisting me in doing the right training and getting back onto the court. Returning to the club, there will be a lot of different personnel, and new players but they’ve been supporting me from the beginning. It’s definitely going to feel new but they do have a great environment that definitely helps moms to excel and continue playing at a high level,” she said.
This means that NSA will also be able to help other players in the future who wish to continue playing while they start their own families as now they have a point of reference through Pretorius.
“I think it was a learning curve for Netball South Africa as well, from the very beginning they were supportive. For instance, now at training camps, they allow my mom to come who serves as almost a nanny to look after Kara when we’re training. We’re all learning but it's been new times now, that’s how things will be happening now,” she explains.
Although Pretorius was on top of her game before taking the break, she understands that she will have to work hard to get into the starting seven. Phumza Maweni had partnered up with other players in the defensive circle while she was away.
This will be the same when she returns to Australia with her club as well shortly after the Quad Series. It was a no brainer for the two-time championship-winning side to continue their relationship with Pretorius, who not only captained the team in the 2021 season but has also been named Player of the Year three times since joining the team in 2016.
“It’s good to be back, knowing that I am fully back on the court and can compete for the position again. I am very excited and a bit nervous as well but more excited to be able to play again.
"It’s not going to be easy getting back into the team, I know. Other players, like Shadine (van der Merwe), Monique (Reyneke-Meyer) and Tumi (Mahloko) are all there, people who have been playing in that place so long. It won’t be a walk in the park for me to get back into the team.
"Yes, obviously you want to be the best in your position, starting in your own country and I want to get back into that form where I can consistently put out a (good) performance. That’s my aim now, to be consistent in what I am doing, a good starting point is being back in the squad,” she said.