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Women in sport: when pregnancy spells the end of a career

Kathleen Macleod and Elissa Kent are sporting sisters; the first an Opals basketballer, the second a 40-game netballer with the Queensland Firebirds and Melbourne Vixens. Macleod, who gave birth to son Jaxon 16 months ago, returned to a job in the WNBL, and perhaps a second Olympics next year in Rio. Elissa, whose baby Frances is now 10 months old, would love to resume at the elite level, but accepts that she will not.

There are reasons, and realities, behind what Kent describes as the siblings’ “chalk and cheese” experiences as mums in sport, and the one-time gritty midcourter has no wish to put a negative, woe-is-me spin on her own tale. But the 31-year-old would like to see more support given to mothers in a workplace notably lacking in maternal numbers, and more consideration given to the reasons why so few seem to procreate, or to return if they do.

A lot of Australian netballers feel like they cannot have a baby while they play, and they see having a baby as retirement … That’s a really concerning environment.

have illustrated so effectively, the big money in team sports remains in the male versions of the football codes, cricket, basketball, et al. But while dollars are a factor in the choices of some prospective mothers, there are others.

For every Melissa Barbieri, Matildas goalkeeper and mother-of-two, there are many more sportswomen whose career prospects evaporate when their waters break, and countless others who delay parenthood in the first place, for fear of the selection consequences.



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