Alice Mary IreneBLACK

The "famous American netball game” was introduced to New Zealand in 1902, when the Dix Gaiety Company in Auckland arranged for “a dozen specially trained young ladies” to take part in a vaudeville exhibition match under the direction of Charles Brown-Parker.

Dix’s netball team, known as the "American Netball Company" played the touring British football (rugby) team in an exhibition match in 1904, in Dunedin, with the British team winning by 7 goals to 5. An adaptation of “women’s basketball”, both “netball” and “basketball” were used interchangeably to name the sport in the years before the Great War, with “netball” most commonly referred to in schools and “basketball” with older players associated with the YWCA movement.

After the war, the sport gathered momentum for young women, with Wellington having 11 teams in 1921, developing into the Wellington Ladies’ Basketball Competition, of which Mrs R S (Alice) McInnes (a member of the YWCA Club) was President. By 1924, 250 young women played every Saturday, with 16 clubs and 30 teams playing in the 1925 Wellington competition.

Originally from Invercargill, Alice Mary Irene Black was born in 1893. Graduating from Otago University with an Arts and Science degree before the Great War, she married Ralph Saxby McInnes a Returned Serviceman from Belleknowes in Dunedin, in 1919. Alice and Ralph had three daughters, Edith, Blanche and Alison.

The New Zealand Basketball Association was formed in 1924. It was the only national sporting body at the time run entirely by women, with Alice McInnes being elected the inaugural President. By 1927, there were 2,680 registered basketball players in the country. Wellington had 81 club teams, Auckland 59, Canterbury 41, Otago 37, Southland 24, Hawkes Bay 16 and Ashburton 10. It was the hope of the parent body that basketball would be “regarded as the national game for girls, as rugby is looked upon as New Zealand's national game for men”.

In 1932 Alice McInnes was made a Life Member of the national body and as former President she donated the “President's Cup” for the winners of the second-grade in the annual New Zealand Tournament. Alice was one of three women members appointed to the first "National Council of Physical Welfare and Recreation" in 1938.

She was involved in the YWCA, the Guiding movement, as well as being a netball referee and Vice-President of the Referees Association. Alice and Ralph McInnes lived at 40 Hamilton Road, Hataitai, overlooking the netball courts. Alice died on 30 August 1969, aged 76 years, followed by Ralph two months later.

Picture: Mrs “R S” – Alice – McInnes, first President of the New Zealand Basketball Association.