How motherhood is empowering the Laura Geitz comeback

In September 2016, Laura Geitz stood alongside her teammates in the Queensland Firebirds change room preparing to take the court in their ANZ Championship final against the NSW Swifts. The captain had a secret she'd been waiting to share with her teammates, that she was pregnant and was going to take time off from netball to give birth to her son, Barney.

Fast forward to February 2018, and Geitz stands alongside her new Australian Diamonds teammates at the official announcement of the squad to contest the April Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, less than a year after giving birth.

It was a moment the 30-year-old wasn't sure she'd ever get to experience again.

"No, I probably didn't [picture this]," Geitz tells ESPN. "I really didn't know what was ahead of me. Any mum can tell you that becoming a mum is everything, and everything is suddenly out of your control. I never had clear-set in my mind that I would return to play at the Commonwealth Games. I kind of left it up to fate in a way to see how I, first and foremost, coped with motherhood and then if it was right to return to the game. And if I was able to. It definitely wasn't clear in my mind that this would be how it would all pan out, that's for sure."

Geitz had always dreamed of becoming a mother, and the news of her pregnancy "was just an incredible moment". But with the news came the question whether she would ever return to sport; it was a question the former Diamonds captain mulled for several months.

"The thought [of not returning] definitely crossed my mind," she says. "I just didn't know what motherhood would hold for me, and that was definitely my priority.

"There were definitely days where I thought, 'will I ever play another game in the green and gold?' But there were also those moments where there was that firm belief that I did think that I was going to get back and play. It's a bit of a roller-coaster really, of where you are at different times.

"Motherhood: There are already a lot of emotions that are running through your body, leading up to having a baby then having a baby; there's sleep deprivation, and I didn't want to be making, big life-changing decisions until I got my head around actually being a mother. I was lucky that I actually had the time to actually make the decision, and that [Diamond coach] Lisa Alexander gave me that time."

Geitz also counted on the support of her family.

Family has always played a role in Geitz's netball journey, with her mother, Juanita, talking the then 26-year-old out of premature retirement after her father Ross's shock death in an accident on his farm at Allora in Queensland's Darling Downs. A year later, her mother, husband and her husband's family were her personal cheerleaders at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Most recently, it was their support that gave her the opportunity to return to the sport.

"They've just been such a massive part of the road, and the journey, and without them I definitely couldn't be even entertaining the idea of coming back and playing. They've played a very huge role in supporting me and looking after Barney, while I'm able to go and train. They're a part of this as just as much as I am in a way.

"Family's my priority in life, regardless of where I am in my career. It's always been No. 1 to me. I've always wanted to be a mum so to find out back in 2016 that I was pregnant was just an incredible moment. So being able to combine [netball and family] is just something that I feel so lucky to be able to do."

Years ago, the decision to take a year away from the game to have a child would have sparked the end of a career; but in 2018 Geitz is showing how childbirth now is part and parcel of women's sport. And she wants to send the message to young women and girls that they no longer need to make the choice between children and a sports career.

"I think [childbirth] gives us an edge in a way," she tells ESPN.

"Having a child is one of the biggest challenges, one of the most mentally toughest things you can put your body through, so there's that resilience that's built from that and a feeling within yourself that you're capable of actually doing anything. You think 'I've got through having a child', but ... it's also caring for this little human, and being able to multitask comes naturally.

"It's empowering in a way: It makes you feel like you can take on anything in the world and have a go at it. That's a little bit of the energy that I'm running on as well."

Geitz had not played a single elite netball game since 2016 when Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander called the former captain into training camp in January to give one of Australia's most illustrious netballers the chance to prove her place alongside the young, new defensive stars ahead of Commonwealth Games selection.

The goal-keeper clearly impressed Alexander and national selectors Anne Sergeant and Michelle Wilkins, but Geitz knows she still has plenty of work to do in order to regain her starting GK bib -- especially after young guns Courtney Bruce, Jo Weston and April Brandley proved themselves in last year's Constellation Cup and this year's Quad Series.

"I definitely was not anywhere where I needed to be in camp," she says. "I think the camp for me was probably a really good point to test myself and see exactly where I was. As a result I stepped away with some great confidence in myself and maybe the thought that I was able to do this and be a part of this team. But I've got a lot of work to do.

"[Bruce, Weston, and Brandley] have proved themselves on more occasions than one. I'm returning to the team in a different way, I suppose. I've got to earn my position out on court, and that comes through me being out proving myself. I'm happy to have that challenge ahead. I'm happy to really work and really try to be the very best goal-keeper option that I can be for Lisa. She's got a great option in Courtney, but I also want to be the best that I can come Comm Games time."