Sunday, June 23, 2024

City of Newcastle honours local sporting luminary

Netball player, administrator and Hunter sports and civic luminary, Adele Saunders OAM, has been inducted as the 18th Freeman of the City of Newcastle.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes recently awarded the title to the 88-year-old lifelong Novocastrian at City Hall before an audience that included city officials, cultural leaders and fellow Freemen John McNaughton, Margaret McNaughton, and Father Nicolaos Zervas.

The City’s newest Freeman, who insisted on being referred to as “Dell”, was celebrated as a pillar of netball as a player, official and administrator who brought empathy and a social conscience to every voluntary role she performed.

“If you’ve lived in Newcastle you’ve been helped by Dell Saunders, it’s as simple as that. Dell has time for everyone and she’s part of the fabric of our city,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“You can get a sense of Dell’s legacy from her longevity, and over seven decades of serving Newcastle in sport, cultural and civic life. But the richness of her contribution continues to elevate people in big and small ways – this honour goes some way towards recognising that.”

Dell’s life in netball started when she was 11 playing for her primary school, Mayfield West. She would grow into a state level centre. She later became an All Australian netball umpire and president of the Newcastle Netball Association from 1978 to 2019. 

Dell had already served as secretary to the Association since 1955, winning the NSW country championship with the Newcastle representative team the same year.

The face of Newcastle netball to many, Dell insisted on a modest ceremony with the dimmest personal spotlight. But she allowed a reflection on her character in netball terms.

“To be an umpire you have to be completely unbiased. You have to be fair. You should never penalise someone or inhibit their skills as long as it’s within the rules,” Dell said. 

“And you have to be able to ignore the brickbats that come your way. If the spectators crowd you, sometimes it pays to run with your elbow out. I’m still at the umpires’ office every Saturday; it’s rewarding to see someone make it. That’s what comes with being a voluntary person – you set the standard and they remember. We don’t just give them sport, we make them citizens.”

Dell Saunders was also a mainstay of City committees that delivered the Mattara Festival and a vocal advocate for more and better netball courts in Newcastle.

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