Dell Saunders used to be tall.
The veteran sports administrator, who has announced she is stepping down after 40 years as Newcastle Netball Association president, was a lively centre during her playing days.
As she reflected on how the game had changed since she started playing in the 1940s, Ms Saunders said her five-foot-four-and-a-half (163-centimetre) frame was once considered lofty.
“I was considered one of the tall ones, but when I stand alongside the players of today I feel like an ant,” she said on Wednesday.
She will relinquish the presidency at the association’s March annual general meeting, ending an extraordinary tenure as the public face of Newcastle netball.
Ms Saunders, 83, became secretary in 1955, the year she won the NSW country championship with the Newcastle representative team, and rose to president in 1978.
Her representative career extended to umpiring at national level, and she was still wielding a whistle until three years ago.
Ms Saunders, whose given name is Adele, has fought for better facilities for her players and will continue to push for an indoor centre to share with Newcastle High School.
“I’ll probably go on to one of the subcommittees,” she said. “I’ll work during the week when we have school activities in there and state championships. I’ll be in the canteen or in whatever capacity I can to help.”
Ms Saunders said the most significant change she had seen in netball was the move to hard courts, the first four of which were installed near Union Street in 1972.
“We played on grass, which wore out with the usage, and you played in a dust bowl. The courts becoming hard surface improved the sport out of sight.”
She said the game had become faster, coaching more professional and fitness training more intense.
Broadcasts of the national league had broadened netball’s appeal, and Newcastle hoped to introduce a men’s or mixed competition this winter.
Ms Saunders said netball had given her friends “all over the country and overseas”, and she had derived great satisfaction from contributing to the community.
“At local level, every team has a responsibility to give back in various ways,” she said. “It creates a feeling of involvement, and I believe that makes better people.
“Not many of them run off the rails.”