For those that know little Hazel Flinn, seeing her stroll onto court for her first ever netball game in high heels and polka dot tights came as no surprise.
The just-turned-four-year-old became an overnight netball (and fashion) sensation this week when a photo of her gracing the court at her country netball club in a pair of stunning pink shoes was shared on social media.
But for her mum Katherine, the scenes of Hazel on court on Sunday in something approaching high fashion were all but expected.
“She’s quite a little lady. The hair, the headband, I struggle to get her into anything but a skirt. Often she wears a tutu,” Katherine said.
“She got those shoes for her birthday present on Sunday morning and I had bought her a dress as well.”
Having arrived at the courts of her family’s beloved The Rock Yerong Creek Junior Football and Netball Club, south-west of Wagga, Hazel got her chance to debut when the coaches quickly pulled together a Net Set Go scratch match with an opposing club.
“She wasn’t going to be playing, but The Rock has amazing coaches and a netball coordinator who are absolute champions. They organised a scratch match with the Net Set Go kids from Ganmain Grong Grong Matong (Football Netball Club), who are also a wonderful country club,” Katherine says.
“Basically it was, ‘Come on kids, get on the court’.
“Hazel was stripped of her brand new dress and she’s popped her netball dress – what I like to call her ‘formal gown’ – on, and her ‘click clacks’ and gone out.”
To be fair, when it comes to fashion, Hazel has form.
“She left this morning to go to preschool, and she had pink ballerina socks and went to the front door and put her thongs, which look like watermelons, on with her socks,” Katherine said.
“She went to walk out the door laughing, she thought she was so funny. And I was like, ‘No girlfriend, you’ve got some boots over here, put those on’. She went to get her boots but noticed her older sister’s school shoes next to them and went to put those on, laughing at how funny she thought she was.”
On Sunday, however, it was Katherine who had the giggles when she was tasked with handing out the bibs to the first-timers, and had to call in support as the moment became all too much – not for Hazel, but for her.
“I was too busy laughing. Someone gave me the bibs and said, ‘Put these on the girls’, but I gave them to the Under 12 girls and said, ‘You guys sort it out’, because I was wetting myself laughing at Hazel.”
Hazel wasn’t alone in her unconventional netball garb – her best friend Poppy reportedly took to the court in a pair of Blundstones, which might shock the rule makers at metropolitan associations who insist on ‘non-marking shoes only’, but at The Rock they were just thrilled to see those little legends having a go.
“It was on our brand new courts, too. Like brand new this year. But it’s the country. We’re all about the fun of it,” Katherine said.
So how did Hazel fare in her first netball outing? That’s another story worth telling.
“Somebody has obviously said, ‘Just stand here and put your arms up,’ because that’s all she did, just like you see in the photo,” Katherine said.
“So much so that when the ball got thrown to her after about two quarters, she didn’t actually catch it, it just hit her in the face.”
While Hazel’s netball debut was one of those perfectly captured netball moments – and hilarious to boot – for Katherine in many ways it was no coincidence that it happened at The Rock.
“There’s a really good handful of families that just dedicate so much time and so much love to our club,” she said.
“All the way from the president of the junior side of the club, to the lady that runs the netball, to the coaches, to the lady that runs the canteen. They’re unreal, they’re just champions. You can’t have fun things like this without all of those people doing really hard work.”