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15 May 2023

The Randox Aintree Grand National Festival is a Community Award awarded to a girl or woman from Merseyside who is making a difference to grassroots community sport, either through participation or support. We caught up with 2023 winner, Rachael Grace.

I was lucky enough to be nominated and win The Rose Paterson Community Sportswoman of the year award, presented at Ladies Day of the Grand National meeting on a very wet Friday at Aintree racecourse. I was nominated by my netball club, Marshalls, for my role in developing the club over nearly 20 years!

Meeting National Royalty

The winner was announced as part of The Grand Women’s summit on the morning of Ladies Day and was hosted by Sam Quek, Olympic Hockey winner, with other amazing women in sport, including Natasha Jonas, Alice Plunkett and Nina Carberry The event was amazing and showcased some important issues that women face in participating in sport. After the summit my husband and I were able to enjoy a great day at the races, despite the weather. As well as being fed and watered I was asked by the sponsors of one of the races, The Poundland Handicap, if I would like to present the winning prizes. This was unbelievable and made even more memorable as the winner of the race was Grand National royalty: Rachael Blakemore and trainer Henry de Bromhead, for owner JP McManus. An absolutely amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.

 A day at the races I won’t forget any time soon, even though I never won a race! 

Giving my sport a second chance

I started playing netball again, after stopping at university when I didn’t make the university squad, when a trainee teacher came on placement to the school where I was working. This was a standalone team of eight girls in their early twenties. It was great to play again and even better to make new friendships and get a little fitter. 

As players came and went the team needed a new captain and I stepped up. This was great and a time for a bit of a refresh, so we changed our name and club colours, to affiliate to Marshalls FC local grassroots (coached by my now husband at the time). As Marshalls Netball we remained one adult team for many years competing in the Liverpool Netball League with steady success moving slowly through the leagues. For a couple of seasons along the way we had an occasional second team of players.

A first junior club for Liverpool

About eight years ago we were approached by the local netball development officer to set up a junior section, which with some reluctance we did and established the first junior club in Liverpool. This has grown and as girls grow up and continue to play, they have helped us grow to a five-squad senior section. The junior section has grown to span seven age groups of around 20 girls at each, and many more are on our waiting list! 

Volunteers key to our success

In addition to Marshalls, I am also involved in the running of the Liverpool Netball League – a fantastic league of nearly 55 teams of women playing netball at a good standard but for fun friendship and fitness.  

Both the club and the league need many more volunteers to run so smoothly and offer so much to the girls and women of Liverpool. Winning the Rose Paterson award was very overwhelming and once I stopped blubbering, it gave me an immense feeling of pride not just for myself but my sport and what we offer.  It was an absolute pleasure to receive the award from Evie Paterson, Rose’s daughter, who told me how her mum would have loved to have met me and heard what I was doing. It is an honour to be named the winner of this award and I do hope I can continue to do Rose’s name and her family proud. 

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