NETBALL LEGENDS OF THE 20th CENTURY
Rena Stratford – former AENA President, Honorary Secretary of the International Netball Federation and national England Coach/Manager
Born before the first World War and a young teenager when the Women’s Suffrage Movement was at its height, Rena was initially involved in sport as a teacher, coach and physiotherapist.
Rena Stratford captained Middlesex, who, as County Champions represented England against Scotland at the 1939 Glasgow Exhibition.
It was in 1943 during the second world war that Rena Stratford began her many years influencing the development of netball not only in the UK but across the world. As National Organiser for Netball in England she ensured the game continued being played despite the challenges of wartime.
In 1951 during AENA’s Silver Jubilee year Rena published her first book about coaching “Know the Game – Netball’
At the 1953 AGM Rena Stratford spoke of the need to widen horizons and suggested that it was time England linked up with other netball playing areas in the world.
In 1954 following the first international netball match against Northern Ireland, Rena made this visionary statement… ‘in the form of international matches, touring teams, publicity, news space in the daily papers, television reports, promoters, gate money at stadium, full time paid officials, better play, more enjoyment… these visions could become realities if we look for the opportunities and seize them when they come.”
1956: England’s first touring team, whose members had to find their own air fares, took four days to fly in a two-engine Viking aircraft to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. Rena led the party as Manager/Coach, Miss Rose Harris was the umpire and Mary French nee Bushell (Surrey) captained a successful team of ten players which won all matches including three Tests against South Africa.
“To me the main path is directed right across the world…. I think we must think now in terms of an international federation.” (Miss Stratford, 1956 AGM)
1963: as one of the first International Federation Committee members (all from England) Rena had overall organisational responsibility for the first Netball World Tournament in Eastbourne.
She introduced the opening candle lighting and closing flag ceremonies retained in their original simplicity and dignity at all subsequent World Tournaments including 2019 in Liverpool.
Following her challenge for netball to “Develop or die” the AENA Council agreed in 1964 to Rena’s proposal for a full-time Organising Secretary. Annette Cairncross became the first full time holder of this office.
Rena was EN President from 1963 to 1969 and IFNA President from 1967 to 1971, She died in 1989 and posthumously became one of the first members of the EN Hall of Fame in 2001.
Prepared by Lindsay Sartori (EN President 2019) from archive materials