Fourteen years ago, Trish Butters was the first female to sit on the board of the Hampden league.
In a room full of men, and trying hard to promote the interests of netball, Butters was made to push past her own misgivings.
In doing so, she became a trailblazer for those who followed.
"It started off as one female representative, then there was two most of the time," Butters said.
"Initially being the only person, it was difficult.
"It's harder to express your thoughts or feelings and push things when there is only you. The two of us, it was much better.
"Next year we'll have five women on the board. I'm pretty proud about that; increasing the representation of females in the league."
Despite those humble beginnings, Butters said the league, and the board's dynamics, had evolved.
"I remember that first year when I came in, I don't think the board knew any of the netball people and I was asked "who are you?"," she said.
"It was just so new in those days. It was "football, football, football".
"That's been a major change. It's certainly not that anymore. We do have equal rights on the board."
For her countless hours dedicated to shepherding netball's rise, Butters was nominated for and received life membership within the Hampden league this month.
It was an honour that took her by surprise.
"I was pretty dumb actually, sitting there thinking it was someone else," Butters said.
"It's nice to be recognised for your service."
Butters began playing netball at a young age, and though she says she was "never a top player" she loved it nonetheless.
Warrnambool born-and-bred, Butters lined up for North Districts (now North Warrnambool Eagles) before returning as a coordinator and coach once her children, Nick and Grace, started sport.
By then, she was getting approached by Debbie Fitzgibbon to take on a higher role.
"In those days it was a netball subcommittee, so they weren't part of the board. I was asked to be secretary," Butters said.
"One thing I've always tried to model for the kids is if you enjoy something and get a lot out of it, it's good to give back."
Butters' work has her mostly driving participation in netball, with a long-standing involvement with the association championships.
The Hawkedale College teacher said commitment to the role was full-on, especially once the football and netball machine began each year.
"Appointing coaches, choosing teams for champs, travelling to Ballarat or Melbourne," she said.
"Then junior and senior finals kick in and it becomes eight weeks of both Saturday and Sundays from August and September."
But Butters enjoys what she does - she wouldn't do it otherwise - and believes it's the people she has met along the way that made her work worthwhile.
"Most of my friends are all through netball," she said.
Initially planning to step down this year, Butters has committed to two final seasons on the board.
"We're about to enter into a new strategic plan which is one of the reasons I decided to stay on, to help with that," she said.
"I've been around for a long time and history in some of these things is important.
"When you're looking forward, you need to look back to see what has worked and what hasn't."
Butters praised the work of the league's coordinators and club people, believing the future of the competition is in their hands.
"Everything we do at board level come from clubs; what are their thoughts, what do they want to happen and we make a decision from there," she said.
"That is where we make change."
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