Community mourns netball champion

Family and friends farewelled Lesley Hayes at a funeral service yesterday. Lesley was an icon of netball in the Colac district.

“I believe she has been the most influential person in netball in Colac.”

Lesley Hayes ticked every box; a star player, passionate coach, dedicated umpire and committed official, devoting more than half a century to the sport she loved.

Family and friends farewelled Lesley, who died last week aged 72, at a funeral in Colac yesterday.

Family came first for Lesley, who was the loving wife of Ray, mother of Jason and Brett, mother-in-law of Lisa and Katrina, and “Nana” to Rhys, Abbey, Cooper and Lucas.

But netball would become a huge part of her life after starting out in the sport as a talented junior.

Joan Parker, a close friend, teammate, opponent and fellow official for most of Lesley’s decorated journey in the Colac district ranks, said Lesley made an impact with every netball role she took on.

“After Lesley’s love of her precious family, came her passion for netball,” Joan said.

“Lesley has been an inspiring presence in Colac netball for well over 50 years.

“She has fostered, inspired and encouraged many young girls in their pursuits in all areas of the game, playing, umpiring and coaching.”

Lesley was a force to be reckoned with on the court before club netball was the sport’s major outlet in the district.

She led Colac to success at representative level, including victorious Country Week campaigns, won a stack of individual awards and earned selection to represent Victoria.

“Starting as a junior player in basketball as it was called back then, she showed her tenacity and drive which would lead to many achievements over the coming years,” Joan said.

“Lesley was a brilliant, tenacious and balanced player who never gave up trying. This trait was to stay with her in all aspects of her netball life.”

Lesley would become passionate about developing netballers after her playing career ended, holding various coaching roles at junior and senior level up until her last appointment in 2003 leading South Colac’s A Grade side.

Joan said that while Lesley was renowned as “a hard task master” when putting her netballers through their paces, she formed special bonds with her troops.

“Coaching in my opinion was to be her forte,” she said.

“She started firstly with primary school girls in Colac and then those in their teenage years.

“Lesley’s extensive knowledge and passion for the game was enormous as was her ability to recognise individual differences in players in her team and be able to get the best out of every one of

“Her attention to detail was faultless and her development of skills relentless, and as tough and bossy as you think Lesley could be, underneath there was a great respect and compassion.

“She was thrilled to see some of her girls selected in Victorian teams, celebrated with them and even went to watch them play interstate to support them.”

Joan said Lesley was also a strong advocate for the importance of umpiring to ensure the Colac district was well equipped in the whistleblowing ranks.

“Lesley became serious about umpiring and before too long she graduated to her A Grade badge,” she said.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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