Both new to Melbourne and seeking new friends, Matt and Emily Butler went from netball teammates to something much more in a tale that celebrates the power of social sport.
It was January of 2012, and the pair had moved to Melbourne for differing reasons.
For Matt, a Kiwi, it was a chance to see what all the fuss was about in a city his friends had long raved about. For Emily, a move from the Gold Coast eventuated after her mum relocated to Melbourne.
Like anyone in a new city, both were keen to meet new people, but were unsure how.
Emily’s sister, a doctor, suggested she join her in playing mid-week mixed netball. Knowing her sister’s busy schedule, it was initially a way to get some time together.
Emily enjoyed the mid-week games and after a season or two, the team moved from a competition in Ascot Vale to Flagstaff Gardens in the CBD.
The move, however, would see some of the men on the team pull out. Mixed netball requires three males on the court at any one time and, as such, they were stuck.
A callout on Facebook promoted one of Matt’s friends to say “he knew a guy”.
In Matt’s first few games, Emily was travelling overseas, but when she returned he caught her eye. Not that it was the goal.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really in that mindset of meeting anybody that way,” Emily said.
“I’d been single for about three years so I was on all the dating apps and thought there’s no other way to meet anybody anymore. It wasn’t for a few weeks of playing that I thought ‘oh actually, he’s pretty cool’.”
After one game, Matt needed a lift home.
Despite it being well out of her way, Emily offered to drive him.
They would chat all the way home, and continued to do so for half an hour parked outside Matt’s place.
“I thought ‘this is going amazingly’,” Emily said. “I was pretty much expecting him to be like ‘would you like to hang out some time?’ Or ‘do you want to go on a date?’. And then he went ‘alright see you later, thanks for the lift’ and got out of the car!”
“When I got home my housemates said ‘why do you have to wait for him to ask you out, why don’t you just ask him’?”
“So I texted him that night and he said yes.”
Matt’s awareness on the court was strong that night. Off the court, not so much.
“I probably should’ve just pounced and asked straight away,” he conceded.
The pair hit it off immediately, and quickly became inseparable.
They played a number of seasons through social netball group Melbourne Netball.
Earlier this year, the pair got married in New Zealand, with Matt taking Emily’s surname.
They now have their first child, keeping them busy as they chatted to CBD News.
Both speak highly of social netball in Melbourne, as both a way to keep fit but more importantly an avenue to make new friends. Or, in this case, life partners.
“Moving to Melbourne and being new to the city, I found it such an awesome way to meet new people really quickly,” Emily said.
If you’d like to get involved with mixed or women’s netball at Flagstaff Gardens, visit melbournenetball.com