At 208 centimetres tall, Tharjini Sivalingam makes an impact every time she steps onto the netball court.
Sri Lanka’s greatest netballer is now hoping to shoot goals both on and off the court with her new side City West Falcons.
The Falcons unveiled their newest recruit in the opening round of the Victorian Netball League season.
Falcons coach Marg Lind said Sivalingam was a talented player who deserved the opportunity to play in Australia.
She said life hadn’t been easy for Sivalingam, who is known as the world’s tallest netballer.
“It’s a long story, but she’s really suffered because of her height.
“When she was younger she used to get harassed because of her height. Some people in Sri Lanka still laugh at her.”
Sivalingam comes to the Falcons after her former coach who was talking to Lind and Falcons assistant coach Nicole Richardson at a netball tournament.
“We got told about her and she thought she was wasting her time playing in Sri Lanka,” Lind said.
“I sent an email and it went from there and we managed to get her out to play for us this year.”
Lind said the main focus of the Falcons was to get Sivalingam to be able to play at the next level.
West Coast Fever, which plays in the Suncorp Super Netball, has endorsed Sivalingam’s trip to Australia. If the Fever need a tall shooter this season, she’ll be considered.
Richardson, who is also an assistant coach at the Fever, is her specialist coach.
“The goal is to get her as good as possible to go to the next level,” Lind said. “This gives her the opportunity to be exposed to the Australian style and give her an opportunity.”
Lind said Sivalingam being at the Falcons wouldn’t just benefit her, but also the club. Sivalingam played for the Sri Lankan national team for 10 years, including captaining the side.
She was named best shooter at the 2011 World Netball Championships. In the pool games, Sri Lankan played eventual champions Australia.
Political issues have meant that Sivalingam hasn’t been selected in the national team in recent years.
She’d love to represent her country again. She’d also love to play in Australia’s top competition, Suncorp Super Netball.
“Marg and Richo wanted me to come to the club [Falcons] and play. I’d like to get better so I said yes,” she said.
“I’ve always played netball and I enjoy making friendships.
“It’s nice in Australia and there’s wonderful people.”
It’s the second time Sivalingam has been to Australia having spent time in Perth in 2012.
Lind said it’s disappointing that Sivalingam wasn’t given an opportunity to spend more time in Australia earlier in her career. “It’s a shame no one grabbed her 10 to 15 years ago, she could have been like Romelda Aiken.
“Would have been good if someone found her at 24 not 35. She’s very shy and it’s only through the national netball team she started to get to know people.