This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. 

I retired from netball after 15 years as pro, I picked up and moved our lives to the United States so Joe and I could be together with the kids.

It’s been tough. But equally, I can say that the past year has been one of the most rewarding.

Everyday I wake up thankful that Joe and I have two amazing kids, with our twins having brought so much extra love and joy to our lives.

I have such a different perspective these days, all thanks to Jacob and Milla.

Of course, motherhood isn’t easy, parenthood isn’t easy, and there is so much in my life now that I wish I had known, learned and accepted during my netball career.

I guess that is what parenthood does though – it really makes you open your eyes and see the world through a different lens. 

And that’s certainly been the case for Joe and I.

Renae Ingles with exclusive insight

In terms of basketball, it’s been wonderful to see Joe thrive in his career – we are all just so proud of what he is achieving with the Utah Jazz in the NBA, and of course the Boomers.

For obvious reasons, we’ve always been connected through sport.

But while I have not spoken of this too publicly, my transition out of sport has been really difficult at times.

I’m not too ashamed to admit that I have struggled with retirement, for the simple fact that my body hasn’t given up on me.

I still feel fit, I still feel strong and I still feel driven in that athletic space.

I still love challenging myself and setting goals, and it’s not like my love of netball is going to disappear anytime soon.

I miss my teammates, coaches, and everyone else I had the opportunity to work with. Being an elite athlete is special. I never took my career for granted, but I certainly appreciate the people, places and opportunities it gave me more now.

The transition away from that has been hard, sometimes I wish the decision had taken out of my hands for me, I went backwards and forwards with the decision for so long and felt like I had been put through an emotional rollercoaster at times.

I would be able to look back on my career with more content, rather than feel as though I left the game with more to give. I just miss it.

Renae Ingles with exclusive insight

Every retired athlete will tell you that you lose a key piece of your identity when you “hang up the boots”. They’re right.

It pulls on my heartstrings – for so long all you aim to do as a professional sportsperson is train, develop and improve in a bid to be the best you can possibly be.

And for that to suddenly be gone – it really is a sad thing to go through and there is a real emptiness inside of you that is wanting to be filled.

I mean this in the absolute right way, but being an athlete is quite a selfish lifestyle – you set goals for yourself, strive to get better individually and for the team, and you make decisions based around your sport, your nutrition, your recovery.

Even your schedule is given to you by the coaching team manager and high performance staff.

Everything is detailed for you – from the time spend on the practice courts to the conditioning and fitness room right through to what time you should be going to bed.

Whereas now, my entire schedule is based around my children and their happiness as well as Joe’s frantic basketball calendar and that is all a wonderful thing, it’s just different and something I am still coming to terms with.

Do I love my life? Absolutely. Do I love being with Joe to support his career? Absolutely.

I know, like most things, it will just take time. And goals. New goals.

Do I regret the decision to walk away from netball?

Not for a second. I wanted our kids to be with both Mum and Dad all year round.

It wouldn’t have been fair on them, or Joe, had I continued to play in Australia with the children while Joe was doing everything in his means to make an impact over in the NBA and succeed in his own career.

I wanted us to be a family, and therefore my decision to retire was and is the right one. My family is my everything.

I am extremely lucky Joe is also an athlete, and can understand my thoughts and feelings, and support my transition into whatever lies ahead for me.

And I’m sure anyone who has moved countries, away from the close support of family and friends, will share with you how difficult it can be.

Just like all first-time parents, we have those days when you just feel like your super human and can take on anything, and then there are those days when nothing goes right.

It can be really, really hard, and you just get to the end of the day and think “How did we just get through this?”

Throw in the struggles of retiring, and being away from family & friends, and Joe being on road trips – it’s not hard to break down and be drawn into the emotions of it all.

But those hard days, when you get through them, you manage a smile knowing that tomorrow is going to better – and knowing I have two, happy healthy children makes it all worth it.

And when Joe is home – those moments when the four of us are together are priceless. The best infact.

He is an incredible support and a wonderful father; whenever he is with the kids, just to see their joy and happiness when he is present is such a special thing.

I often just find myself sitting back and taking it all in, because those are the days we cherish the most.

Joe Ingles Renae exclusive insight

I think for any parent, it’s really important to do so, as they’re the moments you’ll remember forever.

Equally, for Joe and I, we want to make sure we’re present in those moments together, because the transition to the United States and parenthood has been hard on both of us.

Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love to be organised and structured.

But despite our efforts in putting together the most laid out plans, if parenthood has taught us anything is that we need to be flexible, patient and communicate with one another.

Our biggest strength has always been our communication, because without it wouldn’t have lasted 8 years of long distance and now juggling careers and kids. 

Pleasingly, we are now really settled in America having since bought a place in Salt Lake city – it really does feel like our home away from home.

Although the 2017-18 NBA Season hasn’t been quite what the Utah Jazz have been hoping for, they are making tremendous in-roads and all the fans can see how bright the future is, and we’re all proud to know Joe is a key part of that.

I know he’s certainly looking forward to heading back to Australia, to catch up with all of our friends and family in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Speaking of which, I am incredibly excited for the Commonwealth Games to return to Australia, in particularly as the Diamonds get set to make their mark when the games are held on the Gold Coast.

I always keep a close eye on the team through social media, and always keep in touch with the girls as well as head coach Lisa Alexander.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 14: Renae Hallinan of Australia catches the ball during the 2015 Netball World Cup match between Australia and Wales at Allphones Arena on August 14, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 14: Renae Hallinan of Australia catches the ball during the 2015 Netball World Cup match between Australia and Wales at Allphones Arena on August 14, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

In fact, I was able to go into camp and visit the squad just before they played in the Constellation Cup against New Zealand in December, and it seems like everything is ticking along nicely in the lead-up to the commonwealth fixture.

The games are always an amazing opportunity for any Diamond to participate in, and I know the girls will be looking through a fine tooth-comb to explore which areas they can improve and perfect prior to flying back to the Gold Coast.

It’s an exciting time for netball, and I’m looking forward to cheering them through my television screen from Salt Lake City.

All while cheering for Joe, completing my masters and enjoying the blood, sweat, tears and absolute joy that life with kids throws at me.

Renae Ingles

Renae Ingles is one of the most influential playmakers in Australian Diamonds history.

Renae played more than 50 Tests for Australia since making her international debut against New Zealand in 2009.

Winner of the Liz Ellis Diamond award in 2013 in recognition of an outstanding season, Renae played a key role in the Thunderbirds ANZ Championship in the same year and also featured for Australian Diamonds in their winning Constellation Cup campaign.