Silver Ferns icon Irene van Dyk says she gave up on her dream of a big family so she could focus on making the most of her stellar netball career.
In the latest episode of rova podcast 'Grey Areas with Petra Bagust', the netball star explained how despite always wanting six kids, she ended up with one.
“I honestly wanted a big family, and then I had [my daughter] Bianca, and then netball. There were times where [my husband] Christie was like, Shall we try? And I'm like, No. And then there were times where I was like, Shall we try? And he's like, No."
“It just happened that we ran out of time. And I'm sure Bianca would have loved some siblings, she would have been a great older sister, but we just run out of time.”
Van Dyk says she had always thought that she could have babies at any time – but the demands of professional sport always made her put that on the backburner.
“Netball being so competitive, I wasn't going to give my bib up for anyone,” she told Petra.
“Nine months was a long time to not be able to play, and I didn't want to give anyone a chance to show that they were better than me. So I was like, No, it’s not going to happen.”
As a lover of the game, van Dyk played professional netball until she was 42 – well beyond the age most netballers hang up their bib for the final time.
She only came to terms with her career ending in her final years, when she was pushed to the fringes and noted that she’d slipped from the high standards set over a legendary career.
“I didn't play the best netball, and deep down I knew it, but I just didn't want to walk out,” she reflects.
“I didn't want to stop, and I probably should have stopped. But there’s that little voice that goes, ‘You can do it, you can do it’."
Ultimately, her playing career came to an end when she got a phone call telling her she wouldn’t be in the Silver Ferns squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It was then that she made the tough decision to leave netball for good.
“It was so emotional. I felt like I'm letting the team down, my family down, the country down. And I wanted people to realise that I've given everything I had, and I if I could I would play for another 50 years,” she said.
“It was about making people realise that I've given everything I had and that I wouldn't want to change anything. My netball career was the perfect script – I loved every minute, every high, every low, all the people I played with, the coaching.
“I loved everything… [but] it was just time.”