By David Nagel
From life support…to being a well-respected lifeblood of the Kooweerup Netball Club.
It sums up perfectly the remarkable journey of Jaydee Miller, a born and bred Kooweerup champion who reached the admirable milestone of 350 club games on Saturday.
Jaydee had no choice but to be a Demon, with her dad Tony Sidney part of Kooweerup’s last senior football premiership in 1981.
She has proudly worn the Demons colours since the age of eight, when the club played at the old John Street courts in Pakenham.
“It’s just what we’ve always done, dad played in that last winning premiership and my two sisters (Kristy and Tammy) have played here and my brother (Jake) as well,” Jaydee said.
The now mum of three, with Annika, Corey and Pippa, was an elite runner at a young age before getting chronically ill.
She was told she would not grow much more in height or be able to run again, but proved the experts wrong in all areas.
“I was 11 and running in state competitions and things like that, I was a sprinter, but I got Dermatomyositis, which is a muscle disease, where your muscles all break down, and that left me on life support,” Jaydee explained.
“I was in hospital for quite some time, and then did two years of rehabilitation where I had to learn how to walk and talk and how to feed myself again.
“After that two-year period, I was pretty much back to being able to walk upstairs, to walk and jog and basic things like that.
“My knees weren’t working properly when I first came back, but they gradually got better over time
“After all that, I quit running and just concentrated on my netball.”
And that has been great for Kooweerup, because what a netball career it has been.
The tall, athletic defender has always been a standout player, winning multiple club and league best and fairest awards.
She has also been runner up at league level on several occasions, and has finished best and fairest or runner up at Kooweerup in every year she has played.
Natural attributes, talent, and a fierce but fair desire for the contest have all helped her along her journey.
“I play goal defence, my height is definitely an advantage, and I can read the play okay,” Jaydee said humbly.
“And I do go in hard and fall a lot…and end up with a lot of bruised knees.”
Jaydee’s commitment to both her netball club, and family, is enviable.
She coached her daughter Annika, who is now playing in the Kooweerup 13-under team, and is currently running the NetSetGo program which youngest daughter Pippa is a part of.
And husband Ben, well he’s an iconic figure at Kooweerup as well, having played 305 games at the club.
“It’s our way of life, we live, breathe and sleep footy and netball at this time of year, especially with our kids involved in it as well,” Jaydee said.
“I just love the environment, the social side of it, the family orientation of it all, having my kids there, it just feels like being part of an extended family at the club.
“To see my kids, grow up in that environment has just been unreal as well.”
A 17-under premiership is Jaydee’s only team success, but don’t for minute think she hasn’t had her fair share of highlights.
Not surprisingly, those individual highlights mostly revolve around family.
“I played with my sister (Tammy) again last year, and that was a great experience because she had a few years off,” Jaydee said.
“And this year, playing with my sister-in-law (Ellie Miller), has just been amazing.
“For some people they may not be highlights, but for me that’s what it’s all about…the general family feel around the place…I just love it.”
And the place loves you too Jaydee Miller…a well-respected lifeblood of the Kooweerup Netball Club.