Class of 2002
Australian Diamonds Representative and Specialist Defensive Coach
163; an insignificant number for most.
For Clare McMeniman, the number represents the realisation of an 11-year goal. It represents a tenacious commitment to team culture, standards and loyalty. It represents disappointment and personal heartbreak. It represents brave decisions and a determination to never, never give up.
Clare was raised in Warwick into a genetically-blessed sports family of three brothers (her brother Hugh represented the Wallabies). By the time she was 12, she measured over 180cm tall. In netball, she felt she had truly found her place.
In 1998 Clare commenced at John Paul College as a Year Eight student.
‘It wasn’t like netball was my number one thing back then. It was always academics first – and then I had high jump and netball. What I really liked about coming to JPC was that it was the first time I had the opportunity to do so many activities. I even did flute in concert band 2.’
In 2002 Clare served as College Captain, graduating with an OP3 and was accepted into a Bachelor of Science. By this time, she had already made Australian schoolgirl squads and was one of two 17-year-olds selected as junior training partners in the Firebirds team.
In 2005 Clare took up a scholarship with the AIS and debuted for the AIS Canberra Darters in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, receiving the ‘Best New Talent’ award – all while continuing her university studies. National selection followed in the Under 21 team in 2005 and 2006. In 2007 she signed with the Queensland Firebirds.
While competing for the Firebirds, Clare topped her 2010 Masters of Speech Pathology cohort at the University of Queensland, winning the Speech Pathology Australia Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement.
By 2011 she was juggling training and playing commitments with full-time work as a speech pathologist. It would also be the year that the Firebirds claimed their first ANZ Championship. By season’s end she was ‘exhausted’ and made the decision to retire. Her decision came on the back of being overlooked for the Australian team for the 2011 World Cup in Singapore.
A two-year hiatus from the sport saw Clare work and travel, and grieve the loss of her mother, just two years after her father’s death. But a phone call from teammate and good friend, Laura Geitz, paved the way for an amazing comeback.
2014 saw Clare and the Firebirds make it to the grand-final of the ANZ Championship and Clare selected in the Australian Squad for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
‘Even though I didn’t get selected in the Australian team for the Games, I realised I still had a shot at national selection and although it wasn’t the reason I came back, representing Australia was always a dream.’
In November 2014, Clare became the 163rd Diamond when she came off the bench against England in Canberra. In the crowd was Clare’s John Paul College coach, Gila Adams (1996).
‘Playing for Australia is also something you never, ever forget. Playing for the Diamonds against England in Canberra in 2014 was spectacular. It was something when I stopped playing in 2011 that I didn’t ever think I’d have the opportunity to do.’
In 2016 (the year in which the Firebirds claimed their third ANZ Championship), Clare won a unanimous team vote to be elected Australian Captain. She went on to captain the Diamonds to a series clean-sweep over England.
In leading the Diamonds to the Constellation Cup against long-term rivals, New Zealand in Invercargill on October 20 2016, the curtain came down on a stellar career filled with impressive numbers, just like her cherished #163.
Today, Clare juggles a myriad of commitments. She and Laura Geitz run the highly successful Fuel2Fly programme, she is a Suncorp #TeamGirls Ambassador and continues to practise as a speech pathologist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Clare commentates for Suncorp Super Netball and will guide Australia’s next generation of national players through her appointment as specialist defensive coach with her beloved Diamonds.