Paige Hadley: A Full-Time Athlete Without A Full-Time Wage

"We’ve come a long way in the past 12 years but there’s still a long way to go."
Paige Hadley

I was 20 when I got my first professional netball contract with the Sydney Swifts. It was 2013 and the contract was $13,000 for six months. At the time, I was studying full-time at university doing a degree in business and commerce and working part-time as well. I was fortunate to be playing in my home state, so I could live with my family. I certainly couldn’t afford to live in Sydney on my own.

Two of my friends who got contracts in Queensland had to move into a granny flat at the back of their coach’s house. We all made sacrifices. I would wake up early in the morning to train, go to university during the day, hit the court of an afternoon and work some nights depending on when our games were.

Playing netball professionally is a big commitment. It’s a full-time job in itself but we’re not paid a full-time wage to do it. We’ve come a long way in the past 12 years but there’s still a long way to go.

The Diamonds
Paige Hadley (left). (Credit: Photography: Corrie Bond/Vivien’s Creative. Art Direction: Lesley Jhoty. Hair and makeup Sarah Tammer and Lei Tai/Vivien’s Creative; Desiree Wise; Audrey Hoang.)

Today, playing for the Swifts and the Diamonds, I can live comfortably but I can’t set myself up for the future. I still work casually doing admin for an orthopaedic surgeon, and many of my teammates also have part-time jobs as coaches, teachers and occupational therapists.

I’m grateful to have the support of my sponsors – Penrith Toyota, Asics Australia, and Body Science – who value the work that we do as elite athletes. We’ve worked so hard to progress the game and bring sponsors on board, and we go above and beyond for them. I wonder if male athletes feel as grateful as we do for financial support, or if it’s just expected?

Netball is the most popular female sport in the country. More than a million people played netball between July 2022 and June 2023, and we have a significant broadcast deal with Fox Sports and Kayo.

But when you look at our male counterparts, such as NRL players, there’s a huge gap between our contracts. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t frustrating. We put in the same hours – if not more – to compete at the national and international level, but we’re not paid anywhere near the blokes. I always say to my partner, imagine if I – as someone on a vice-captain contract – got paid the same as an NRL vice-captain.

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