The Netball Wars is the second book in the St Abelard’s series. As Caught Red-Handed introduced the reader to only four characters, the next story had to include much more of the school – not only a wider range of characters but it had to give the reader a taste of school life.
The Netball Wars is my favourite story because it is the most autobiographical. I didn’t have to dig very deep to recall a panoply of memories involving rivalry on the netball court, devising various ways to put the opposing team at a disadvantage and last but not least … those dreaded gym knickers.
It was actually that naughty Penny (Miss Hasler) who told me that some people have a fetish about gym knickers. Now, I’m far too innocent and naïve to know anything about school fetishes (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!) but, tis true, I was unaware of that one.
As in St Abelard’s, my school’s rule was that your house colour dictated the colour of your gym knickers - my colour was yellow. My school must have had a huge stash of multi-coloured burlap sacks hidden somewhere and a squadron of grandmas that made them into knickers because the material was so coarse that you had to sometimes slip a hand up the back of your gym skirt and rub your bottom better. I writhe while I recall that if you rubbed especially hard, there would be ribbed lines imprinted on your bottom when you took the knickers off, ooh!
In a way, the gym knickers would have been a great leveller amongst the students – we were all equally humiliated and repelled by them – if everyone had worn them, that is! If there was one way that you could distinguish the good girls from the bad ones was that the latter would not bother wearing them. I was a good girl (usually) but on one occasion, for a dare, I didn’t wear mine and (typically) I was found out and (shock, horror!) I was given a detention for it: I had to write fifty lines saying that “I will wear the correct PE kit”. This particular episode will be relived by an unfortunate St Abelard’s student and she will suffer the same fate as her poor author... she’ll also have a very sore bottom to show for her punishment as well!
House rivalry was a big part of my school life. Competitiveness was drilled into us from day one and especially in sports. As tradition dictates, our school’s pride lay in the hands of the netball and hockey teams. Hockey is a vicious game so I gravitated towards netball and, seeing as I’m 6”0, I was the GS (Goal Shooter).
The Netball Wars carries on directly from where Caught Red-Handed finishes. The protagonists from the first book, Kate and Robyn, break friends because they both miss a pivotal netball match due to a second detention for the indiscretions committed in book one. Kate is in Boleyn house while Robyn is an Earhart girl. Robyn is hurt that Kate has not apologised to her – after all, the contraband cigarettes they snuck back to the detention room for were Kate’s, not hers.
This sparks a War of the Houses - it’s Earhart Vs Boleyn and they are fighting for victory on the netball court and by any means necessary.
Robyn waited for her moment. It arrived when Mrs Hoover turned to evaluate Faye Brenner’s work. Robyn took the bread knife from her work top and plunged it into the heart of her own soufflé before letting out a scream that would have woken the dead.
“Miss!” she wailed, bursting into fake tears. “Kate’s just burst my soufflé!”
Kate’s jaw hung open. She could not believe that Robyn had just done that! She was so shocked, in fact, that she could not even utter a word in her defence before the outraged teacher had taken ten points from Boleyn and bent the shocked Miss Houston over her knee to teach her a painful lesson with the back of a wooden spoon.
“I’ll teach you to spoil other people’s baking, young lady!” Mrs Hoover scolded, stinging Kate’s squirming bottom with painful swats. “You will apologise to Robyn this instant!”
“Ow! But, Miss!” Kate pleaded.
“No buts!” the strict teacher snapped, her rebuke emphasised with a brace of hard thwacks to the backs of Kate’s thighs. “You will say you’re sorry this instant or I’ll deduct another ten points from Boleyn and set you five hundred lines in detention tonight!”
Kate frowned. She knew that she was innocent but Robyn’s dirty trick had already cost Boleyn ten points and she couldn’t let another ten be lost. From her highly undignified position, with her nose nearly touching the floor and her bottom raised high, she looked up at Robyn. Her ex-friend was doing her best to hide the triumphant grin that was twitching at the corners of her mouth.
The rivalry between the houses reaches fever point and, on the day of the final, events boil over into anarchy. Of course, it is down to the ruthless Matron Frost and the strict PE teacher Miss Trent to restore calm and to punish the miscreants responsible. As they lie over the vaulting horses and receive their bare-bottom spankings, frenemies Kate and Robyn forgive each other for all the terrible pranks they’ve played on each other.
There is an added surprise at the end of the story - an issue which will be explored further in later stories - but, if you can’t wait to find out what it is … you’ll just have to march your naughty little bottom off to Amazon and buy my book, won’t you? ;op