Laura Dyer, President of CULNC, is hoping the club's success of last year can be repeated with her at the helmJoe Stankiewicz

Laura Dyer is a reserved character off the court, but that is not to say that she struck me as a driven woman. In her third year with the netball club, Dyer, a Fitzwilliam undergraduate, is aiming for a repeat of the success of last year. On the day that the netball season got underway after a positive pre-season, she and her club are ready to go.

“After pre-season, we are feeling good. We have had some excellent new additions, freshers especially. There is a good energy amongst the squad.”

One wonders what squad this will turn out to be: only four of last year’s Varsity-winning side return.

“A number of players have left us, chiefly through graduation, but I am completely confident that we can match last year. The Blues team has been boosted by a handful of last year’s seconds’ team moving into the first string team.”

Despite the turnover in players, Dyer is feeling ambitious: “Why not shoot for the stars? We want to win the league again [Midlands 1A] and progress through to the Premiership playoffs. We would also like to go further in the Cup competition.”

Our conversation took place just hours before the first fixtures of the season; the second team, the Jays, of which Dyer is a part, took on their Oxford counterparts: “a lot rides on today’s match – we have to prove ourselves as a new team and this is a real chance to get some bragging rights.”

The Jays lost their Varsity Match last year, it is no small wonder that Dyer was so forthright: the match against Oxford mattered.

Though playing with the Seconds, Dyer was well aware of the task that faced her club’s first team, an away trip to Loughborough Seconds: “They have a centre dedicated solely to netball. It can sometimes seem daunting playing a side like Loughborough with their facilities, but I have every confidence the Blues team can repeat their victory from last year.”

Dyer mentions that she, and her fellow netballers, can encounter huge obstacles, and though she counts herself lucky having a Director of Studies that is understanding, she is cognisant of the fact that she is in a fortunate position: “A lot of Directors of Studies will not understand; in their eyes, playing university netball is a hindrance. For us, playing is extremely helpful for our degree. It’s almost a no-brainer.”

Laura Dyer heads a club solely for ladies; netball itself is a trade that has traditionally been plied only by women. Her take on whether the playing field is level is one of interest: “Certainly approaching sponsors is difficult; it seems as if men’s sport is more appealing to corporate sponsors. It is immensely frustrating.”

Last year, the Blues secured both a BUCS division title and a Varsity Match victoryJoe Stankiewicz

“That being said, we have found that university clubs are struggling with sponsorship across the board. Sponsorship is necessary for us as a club, and what we get from the university in the form of a grant, for which we are immensely grateful, just does not stretch far enough. The change in strategy of many companies is really starting to hit home.”

“We are now having to ask £185 for two terms’ membership from our members, and support from colleges can, and does, vary.”

When pressed on whether this represents value for money, Dyer has this to say: “We train three times a week, two of which are with our coach who is experienced and works with regional teams. We also have weekly BUCS fixtures, so yes, I do think it represents value for money.”

It is clear, then, that Dyer puts an awful lot into Netball. That being the case, she questions why the Women’s Blues’ Committee, fully aware of the success that Netball has enjoyed over recent years, awards players an extraordinary Full Blue only if they meet the two criteria of winning the Varsity Match and coming in the top four the BUCS league, otherwise the Blues players must make do with a Half.


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“We try every year to convince the Blues’ Committee of our worthiness for Full Blue status. Netball is the most popular sport for girls at school. I struggle to see why a Full Blue is as conditional as it is.”

Netball may not yet be a Full Blue sport, but the sport as a whole, not just here in Cambridge, is on the up: England Netball is in the second of a four year deal with Sky and this a bandwagon on which there may well be a seat for CULNC: “We approached England Netball about broadcasting our Varsity Match next term and it is something they are very keen on. They want to sell the narrative of student netballers with significant potential in the professional world. A lot of my off court responsibilities lie with organising the Varsity Match so this development is obviously a very exciting one.”

As we discuss her personal goals for the year ahead, it becomes evident that CULNC is a caring club: “our biggest changes this year are sessions with a sports psychologist, as well as a focus on nutrition. At Cambridge we are so obsessed with productivity so doing things right, off- and on-court, is so important. I personally think that the Jays [second team] lost the Varsity Match last year because we lost our heads. Mind and body dictate how we play, so getting this right personally, and as a figurehead for the club, is so important this year.”

Laura Dyer is driven. That much is obvious. She cares about her players and her club, and wants them shown the respect and recognition she thinks they deserve for their hard work. In a challenging climate for university sports clubs, as sponsorship money dries up, she is doing her level best to keep CULNC going down the right track with a full head of steam.

With victory over Oxford for her Jays on Wednesday, 54-37, the signs are there for another positive year for the Cambridge University Ladies’ Netball Club

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