Bryony Rovegno started playing netball at the age of eight in middle school before going on to become Gibraltar Netball’s National Team Captain and now at the age of 36 she has been chosen as one of a select group of international athletes for the ‘Voice of the Athlete’ Working Group by World Netball. Bryony credits Sarah Payas, currently Senior Squad coach, as being the person who got her involved in playing netball. “Sarah has been very instrumental in coaching and bringing on girls in netball.”
Whilst at university in the UK, Bryony didn’t play netball but took it up again when she returned home to Gibraltar and became Captain of the National Team. It is not surprising that with a height of 5ft 8 inches Bryony not only plays netball but she also plays basketball. Both sports involve high speed, twisting and pivoting and because of this knee injuries are relatively common, and unfortunately Bryony has had five knee surgeries. “It is not easy working and trying to make a comeback from an injury,” she explains. With a heavy training schedule, there is little time for family and friends, or for celebrations such as birthdays or anniversaries. “Our training sessions are usually quite late so once you get home, especially after a hard day at work, it is difficult to switch off and focus.”
Bryony has competed in many international competitions, mainly in Netball Europe, and was fortunate enough to be part of the squad when Gibraltar was ranked in the World Rankings. When she’s not training, Bryony works for the Bassadone Automotive group in the Sales Department, exporting Toyota vehicles to humanitarian organisations such as the UN, mainly to Africa.
So how was she selected as a ‘Voice of the Athlete’? “To be honest, I put my name forward and never thought I would be selected so I wasn’t expecting it,” she laughs. “The worst part was when I saw who had also been selected, world class athletes that I had only ever seen on television before and all of a sudden I was chosen to be one of them, it is a great honour for me and for Gibraltar as well.”
Bryony explains that they had their first meeting via Zoom recently. “It was really just to get to know each other but it was quite overwhelming to be in a call with professional athletes such as the New Zealand captain Katrina Rore and Liz Watson, the Australian captain.” The other members of the group are: Francinah Eyman – Botswana, Stacey Francis-Bayman – England, Malysha Kelly – Jamaica, Auteletoa Tanimo – Samoa, Emily Nicholl – Scotland, Aqilah Andin – Singapore and Samantha Wallace – Trinidad & Tobago
These ten members of the Voice of the Athlete Working Group, who each have at least three years of international experience, will work together throughout 2021 to determine a suitable framework for a future Athletes Commission, which will be established following recommendations by the Working Group to the World Netball Board.
With a recent heightened awareness of mental health issues amongst athletes, Bryony is pleased to be able to act as a voice for others. “There are a lot of things that happen in any association – and the athlete is the last person to be heard – so we have to come up with a plan and put contingencies in place as to why we should be heard.”
Proud to be part of Gibraltar Netball which has given her so much over the years, Bryony is passionate about helping the younger generation in any way possible. “What I want to do is inspire them – they are our future – so I will do anything that I can to help them and they are the ones that are going to benefit from this all.”
Netball remains the most popular team sport for girls and according to Bryony for the last three years Gibraltar Netball has focused on bringing younger girls in at a grassroots level. “Sarah Payas has worked extremely hard in trying to put Gibraltar netball on the map.” The sport has become so popular that training sessions at the Tercentenary Sports Hall are often packed full of youngsters eager to play. “Even if they don’t make it onto a team we are there to inspire them and there are other things they could go on to do such as a coaching course or a scoring certificate,” she explains.
Having been a part of other organisations, Bryony praises the structure in place at the Gibraltar Netball Association. “They are very determined to progress and the Association is always striving to find new tournaments for us to participate in, but it is not easy at times because although we are funded by the Gibraltar Government it is not for every single tournament, so we have to fund raise and that’s not easy when you are working and training as well, but we get through it and the exposure we have got over the last few years has helped us tremendously,” she states.
Taking part in international tournaments helps Gibraltar Netball to develop and grow and heightens the profile of netball in the community. “We often get positive comments from people who have come to watch us play over the years who have seen how we have progressed and it makes you feel like you have done something worthwhile.”
Currently Bryony is training as part of the national squad, the Campions, for the Netball Europe Open Challenge taking place in Gibraltar on the 7th – 10th October. “Because of my injuries I am not one hundred percent fit so I think it is probably the last tournament I will play in.”
Looking forward, Gibraltar will host the 2022 Netball Europe U17 tournament, scheduled for the first week of March, with countries such as UAE, Malta, Switzerland and the Isle of Man participating. This will be a major boost for young players coming up through the ranks and currently performing alongside the Performance Academies whilst also getting crucial experience within the senior domestic league.
Another major international event scheduled for February 2023 will also see the U17s in action with a total of nine countries participating in both the U17 Challenge tournament and the U17 Championship tournaments. This is an added boost for Gibraltar that will hopefully help in its bid to host the Netball World Youth Cup in 2025.
Asked what the future holds in regard to netball and whether she will go into coaching, Bryony comments that she is not sure. “Coaching is not something that I am a natural at, but when I am training I do tend to give advice and feedback because I have got a lot of experience.”
Insight congratulates Bryony on her inclusion in the “Voice of the Athlete” working group which is testament to the increased reputation gained by Gibraltar in recent years within the international netball community.