For the past three years I have basically been a training partner for the Thunderbirds, but this year, was awarded a call-up based on form.

It was one of the best experiences and opportunities that I was given, but it was also obviously one of the toughest.

At the time, the wider media felt as though I didn’t deserve that chance, slamming on me for being a training partner in the first place.

Some didn’t understand why I was playing and other people weren’t playing.

Sometimes it did get to me, as I didn’t feel as though I had that support for me.

Charlee Hodges exclusive insight

But it was the experience of a lifetime, playing against some of the best defenders in the world.

I tried not to get too caught up in not having people behind me all the time.

I know that obviously I did have supporters and that’s what I focused on because you will always get negativity in sport!

To not be able to get a 10 contract with the Thunderbirds was disappointing but again that’s sport!

Like others I was working and studying full time, not getting paid as a full time player but being expected commit 100% … it was very tough and I was lucky to have such a supporting uni course coordinators, coaches and bosses who allowed me to be flexible.

I knew I needed to keep adding to my game so I kept my options open and that’s when the opportunity to play in New Zealand came about.  

I remember ringing my mum straight away obviously nervous because it meant I’d be moving countries! But to hear how happy it made her, it really cemented my decision.

I had an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, to play with a new bunch of amazing girls and coaches in a different league in a different country. I knew it’s what I had to do to better myself as a netballer and also a person.

Charlee Hodges exclusive insight

I’ve been through a bit in the last two years which pushed me to make the decision that I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do for me and what makes me happy.

At the end of the day you can’t get caught up in what other people think about you and your decisions because you’ve only got one life and it is so precious.

Last year, I received the cruellest wake-up call to that fact, when sadly my step-dad took his own life.

There is nothing that puts life into greater perspective than the sudden passing or illness of a family member.

It’s common to hear people, in particularly athletes, say that in times of tragedy you realise how sport is “only a game” at the end of the day, but for me it was the reverse.

When I lost my step-dad, it just showed me how much netball is more than just a sport for me. Netball is my sanctuary.

People can get caught up in the performance and the negativity about it and slamming people, but being out on the court with all my friends is where I find my joy.

I only missed one training to go to the funeral and then I was straight back into it because I know it’s what he would have wanted me to do and it wasn’t only me that needed an “escape”, my netball also became an escape for my whole family and brought them happiness in such a horrible time of grief. It was tough and the whole “leaving your shit at the door” motto was always in my head because at no point did I want to bring any of the stuff I was feeling at home into my team. So whenever I felt as though I couldn’t separate the two, I’d speak up and take a time out if I needed to.

I realised how much it meant to me and how much joy and happiness it brings me each day.

But what I no longer did was sweat the small stuff. I learned to push aside any negative energy and simply focus on being around people who make me happy and smile. In turn, I think that is why I did have a good year because I didn’t get bogged down on what people thought, or if I did play bad or had a bad quarter, my performance didn’t make me any less of a person.

It really changed my perspective on not only on netball, but just on life in general. Life’s too short to take things too seriously and get so wrapped around the negativity of things. There’s always a positive out of every situation.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 08: Charlee Hodges of the Thunderbirds warms up before the round 10 Super Netball match between the Thunderbirds and the Magpies at Priceline Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 08: Charlee Hodges of the Thunderbirds warms up before the round 10 Super Netball match between the Thunderbirds and the Magpies at Priceline Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

While I haven’t been as open about my step-dad’s passing through the media, I’m now at a point where I can express my thoughts.

The stigma around mental health is quickly becoming a thing of the past and I couldn’t be more glad.

My father, Scott who played football with the Adelaide Crows in the AFL, brought out a book about his battle with mental health as well.

He really spoke on how it’s just so important not to get so caught up in other people’s expectations and what other people think of you, because people in reality – well, we can be nasty and shitty people if we decided to be, but there’s no positives out of that.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of I’m not living up to people’s expectations. What will people think of me if I do this? What will they think of me if I don’t do this?

So when all the negativity followed me earlier this year, I honestly was just like who gives a stuff. Honestly. This is my life.

Charlee Hodges exclusive insight

If you haters really want to get caught up in that, than fine.

If a coach doesn’t pick you or doesn’t rate you, that is also fine.

It’s one persons opinion and they’re entitled to it. . As long as you’re doing everything you can to better yourself, than don’t stress. Other doors open, when one closes.

If you think you’ve personally done everything and ticked everything off, well you can’t control that you just gotta keep doing what you were doing and stay true to yourself.

If you have a bad game is it really the end of the world? Do you need to sit the whole week and dwell on it.

‘Cause that’s what I used to do.

Obviously my perspective has changed so much. I am my own harshest critic.

I think people do forget how athletes, we know when we haven’t had a good performance, we know when something obviously gone bad, but we don’t need everyone else jumping on the bandwagon to make us feel even worse about it.

Charlee Hodges exclusive insight

I know sport is sport and you’re going to get those supporters and they obviously do it because they love the club and love the game, but you do have to sometimes remember ‘they’re a person and they actually have a life too’.

They actually probably know if they haven’t had a good game or if they’re not performing to the level that they want to.

The one thing I’ve learned, is that everyone is entitled to their own way of grieving, a hundred percent, but to think that some people can go through life and you don’t even know what they’re going through and one little thing that could be said could set someone off.

That’s when it made me be like; you know what Charlee you can not dwell on anything just do what you have to do. My motto and all my friends know, is just you do you, because at the end of the day you’re the one that has to live with yourself.