Ex-netball star now business analyst of diamond company

Willa Bronner of United gets airborne under a challenge from Orlando Pirates opposite number Moetie Xarageb during a Khomas First Division netball league encounter at the Multi-Purpose Youth Complex in Katutura in the 1990s. Photos contributed

If ever there was a player as focused and fired up for a game of netball, one needs to look no further than former United centre Wilma Bronner.

Affectionately known as Willa by her teammates and netball fans alike, Bronner will be remembered as one of the most hardworking and equally aggressive players to don the famous blue and white dress of United.

“Oh yes,” Bronner says. “I was very hardworking because I am a very competitive person who hates to lose. I liked to play both defensive and attacking because I always wanted to be involved for my club. My former opponents will tell you that I was aggressive on the ball.

“I vividly remember our encounters against Black Africa (BA), who were our fiercest opponents in the Khomas First Division at the time. I enjoyed playing against Annie Mosiane because she was a small volcano on the court. It always seemed like a rugby match when we clashed.”

Born at Sasolburg in the Free State, South Africa, Bronner started playing netball while at Sasolburg Primary School.

The retired star, who also represented the Vaal Triangle provincial netball team during grades 11 and 12 at Sasolburg High School, was also a sprinter of note who excelled in the 100m and 200m sprints and hurdles.

“I did athletics at school but I didn’t run seriously after school. I enjoyed playing tennis which helped with my agility and reflexes, and I also played a little hockey, but only twice at the most because it clashed with my netball schedule,” Bronner says.

“I really enjoyed myself on the netball court throughout my youth. I mostly enjoyed playing in the attacking positions because I wanted to be involved in my team’s attack. I was fully aware that netball was a team sport and we all had a role to play.”

Her school dominated the Vaal Triangle Regional League for three years and after matric, she made it among the first seven players of the South African Technikon team when she studied at the Vaal University of Technology in the early 1990s.

Willa and Wimpie Bronner, who studied together at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa got married in 1996.

The former South African schools netball star moved to Namibia in 1996 after she and her Namibian husband Wimpie Bronner, who also studied at the Vaal University of Technology, got married.

Bronner started to make headlines in Namibian netball circles and her consistent top notch performances with United became the talk of the town.

“I really enjoyed my netball with United. In fact, I started playing for United by chance. I just happened to be at a show in the company of a few people and one of them happened to be Wendy Vermuelen, who was Wendy Willemse back in the days,” Bronner says.

“I asked her if she knew any good netball team I could join because I wanted to play so badly. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Wendy told me that she would introduce me to United. I didn’t even know that she was their player.”

The rest, as they say, is history because Bronner helped United become a dominant force in the Khomas league before Katutura-based BA became the team to beat.

One could not ignore Bronner’s contributions to the team, and soon the Namibian national team selectors came knocking at her door.

She was selected for the Namibian team for the All-African Games in 1999, hosted by South Africa in Johannesburg.

“My time with the Namibian team in South Africa was very exciting. I particularly enjoyed my game against South Africa because they were the African champions at the time and every player will tell you that it is their dream to play against the best,” Bronner says.

“Playing against the Proteas was a learning curve. That team is well drilled and the intensity and cohesion in that team is absolutely world class. Playing against them is a benchmark for an African player, like a dream come true. They are phenomenal, a well-oiled machine unit.”

The former United centre was part of the squad for the 1999 Netball World Cup but was unable to showcase her talents against the best netball nations in the world when Namibia failed to attend due to financial constraints.

Bronner describes the Khomas First Division league final against BA as her most memorable match ever.

“It was really an energy sapping encounter. I think that we ended the season on the same points and we had to play out in order to determine an outright winner. It was one of those finals and it felt like we were playing netball,” Bronner says.

“BA games really brought the best out of me. The matches were tense and very tough. You could see that it was two champions battling it out. Their centre, Annie Mosiane, made me run but I am just glad that we prevailed as winners by one point.”

Former United and Namibian national netball team star Willa Bronner is now working for Debmarine Namibia.

She says her focus on the netball court created the impression that she was rude but it was just because she never liked to lose.

She describes Namibia’s failure to appear at the 1999 Netball World Cup and the fact that she could not play netball a little bit longer, after injuring her knees, as her two biggest regrets as a netball player.

Bronner, who says that she exercised a lot to maintain consistency, is currently employed full time as a business analyst at Debmarine Namibia.

“I am between the business part and the programming part of the company’s computer system. I am also tasked to work on the Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing (SAP) payroll system,” she says.

“Although I enjoy every moment of my work, it also comes with a lot of challenges. The projects I am doing are too many and they are deadline oriented. There is simply no next day because every day has its demands.”

Bronner, who describes her father as the person with the biggest influence on her netball career, briefly played squash and volleyball but had to quit after hurting her knees.

She says she gained a lot of weight and became grumpy after she underwent a knee operation which kept her from doing sport for about eight years but she gradually started cycling and added doing the triathlon to her list of sports.

She says she can only thank her husband for his understanding and support during that dark period of her life, and things began to change after he entered her for the Desert Dash without her knowing.

Bronner, who admittedly misses the camaraderie that prevailed among her teammates, advises young players to be self-motivated and continually improve themselves.

“Never wait for what people can do for you but do what you can do for yourself. Be present in the team, work constantly on your skills and be passionate about your sport,” she says.

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