IN 1995, at just 21-years-old, Kristi Goldup packed up her life in Perth and made the 3000 kilometer trek to a little town called Nangiloc.

From the big smoke to the country, it was a change of drastic proportions.

But there was one thing that didn’t change … and that was her love for a particular sport.

It’s been 27 years, or probably in more relatable terms for Goldup, 400 games of netball for her beloved Demons, since she made the move.

Last weekend, against Meringur, and fittingly at the Demon’s home at Nangiloc Recreation Reserve, Goldup celebrated 400 games of netball.

Four hundred games for the blue and red, and many, many more spent coaching and umpiring.

Then there is the time she has spent developing and mentoring the club’s future netballers.

Her contribution to the club – and to the Millewa Netball Association as a whole – has been huge.

Accordingly, Goldup is a MNA life member, a Nangiloc and District Football Netball Club life member and a past winner of the best club person award.

Thankfully, Goldup was recently able to add premiership coach and premiership player to the list of accomplishments – but it was a long time coming!

So how did the girl from a Perth suburb end up in the agricultural settlement of Nangiloc?

“I moved to Nangiloc for family reasons, my brother Wayne played for Nangiloc, and I had flown over to watch their Premiership win the year before,” Goldup said.

“The club was very welcoming and they made me feel apart of the family, so I decided to pack up and move over to start a new chapter in my life.”

Gaining a new “family” in the football and netball club, Goldup might have got more than she bargained for – as she hit it off with another club person, Glen, who she would go on to marry and create a family with.

While Goldup played netball at Mansell Reserve and indoors at the Mildura Stadium, it was her association with the Demons that would last the longest.

At Nangiloc, Kristi started as a Wing Attack or Wing Defence. From there she moved into the ring and became a shooter.

These days she’s she spends her time at Wing Attack, or as the team’s back up shooter.

As an eight-year-old playing her first game, it’s fair to say Goldup would have no idea that netball would play such a big part of her life.

“I loved watching netball as a little girl and when I was old enough, around eight I think, I started to play,” Goldup said.

“My coach when I first started as a child, Lynda Ritchie, was the one that ignited my passion for netball and I’m very grateful for all that she taught me.”

When she moved from the city to the country Goldup had to get used to playing on grass, as the MNA did back then.

“Back in Perth I played in either asphalt or on boards, so coming to the Millewa was a huge surprise, to go out and play on grass,” she recalled.

There’s been other changes Goldup has seen introduced over the years both in the MNA and in general for netball.

“For starters our court standards have changed, from playing on grass, to asphalt to our new court,” Goldup said.

“There was also only one senior side and one junior side per club and now most clubs have three senior teams (it was four up to last year) and two junior teams.

“The rule changes that have happened throughout the years also have changed for the better, the flow of the game is quicker and there is more allowance for a fair contest, for both sides wanting the ball.”

While the friendships have kept Goldup coming back season after season, not only within her own club, but throughout the association, as well as her love of the game, she’s also had another reason to keep the games ticking over – and that’s to play alongside her daughter Lilly.

“My most memorable moment by far would have been to be able to play side by side with my daughter Lilly, to represent our club,” Goldup said.

“A club that she grew up with and was like a second home for her during the years.

“Lilly played as a sub for a game in 2019, then last year she advanced to senior netball and even managed to win joint club best and fairest runners up.”

Although she’s quick to point out the success her daughter has had, Goldup has had her own –but it came after a long wait.

“My biggest achievement would of been to finally coach a team and play in a grand final and win it in 2019,” she said.

“In my whole career I only played a handful of semi finals and a handful of preliminary finals.

“We made the grand final the year before but lost to Bambill, so the same team came back the following year, worked the hardest they ever had as we felt we had unfinished business and we were lucky enough to finally break the club’s 30 year netball premiership drought.

“That was an amazing feeling to have; your whole club, players – boys and girls – and supporters there cheering you on, pushing you to keep going as the win meant just as much to them, as it did to you.”

Goldup said she’s starting to feel her age after a game now, but is lucky to have a “fantastic” myotherapist to assist with any niggles. She also credits the club trainer, Sarah, for her help week in, week out.

“Every week she straps my ankles before every game, has given me calf rub downs as needed and in general my savior out on the court,” Goldup said.

“So a huge thanks must go to Sarah for all her years of hard work to keep me out on the court.”

Family has taken precedence this season and with her son’s, Charlie, football clashing with some netball times, coaching, co-ordinating and umpiring has had to take a back seat.

After hours spent each week, season after season, prepping for game days or training, Goldup said her family are happy to have her attention back after all these years.

“It was hard, but it just had to be done, so I just did it,” Goldup said of all the roles she has carried out over the years.

While there is no doubt Goldup has filled a massive void at the Demons, it’s clear the club occupies just as big of a place in her heart.

“The club took me in when I was 21, starting a new life, people like Bonnie and Cocka took me in and made me feel apart of the club right from the first night I walked into the club rooms,” Goldup said.

“The club has made me feel a part of a family, so when new people come to us, I try my best to do the same to them, if you feel apart of a family, you’ll stay with your family.

“I never once have considered changing clubs, I’m a Nangi girl for life.”

– By ZOEY ANDREWS