Cath Widdup has been in Port Hedland for more than six years, using her love of netball and experience in the travel industry to forge new friendships, achieve business success, and along the way repay the community that has welcomed her.

With a 10-year history in the travel industry and a desire to move “completely off the radar” when she arrived in 2016, Cath took one look and wondered if she’d made the right move.

Now, of course, she knows the answer.

And her love of netball has been the vehicle for saying thank you.

Having played since she was a child, including representative netball and in the State league in Victoria, Cath has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share.

“I knew living in Port Hedland was going to be very different for me as I had always lived in a city or metropolitan environment with cafes, shopping and restaurants at your fingertips, but I was ready for something different, and my family was encouraging me to come,” Cath said.

“I will always remember the first day in Port Hedland. My mum, brother and sister-in-law picked me up at the airport. We went to the Walkabout for dinner that night; I had never been to a pub with shift workers or even hi vis.

“After dinner we started to drive to my family’s home. Gosh did I freak out. I thought to myself, ‘What have you done?’ I felt like I was living in the middle of nowhere; red dirt, shrubs, there were only a few houses, and no traffic.”

But the initial shock soon subsided. Cath started working at the Cooke Point Recreation Club and the Finucane Island Sports and Recreation Club, where she made friends.

“I soon realised that people were so friendly here and everyone had a story to tell,” Cath said. “Shortly after I arrived in Hedland, I met my partner, Joel, who works at BHP, and together we have explored the Pilbara.”

Cath worked for various businesses before starting a travel agency in 2018, Travelmanagers, leveraging her experience from Melbourne.

She enjoyed success for two years, until COVID-19 hit in early 2020, destroying travel throughout the world.

“When I started the business, I saw it as a huge opportunity for me to provide the town with a service we were lacking,” Cath said.

“Travelmanagers was a great success, although scary at first, but the business was well received by the town.

“Within time I had repeat clients and referrals and it was amazing how supportive the team was. In 2019 I was honoured to be nominated as a Finalist for Tourism/Hospitality at Port Hedland Chamber of Commerce Business of The Year Awards. This was a testament to how much the town had recognised my small little business.

“Unfortunately, once COVID-19 hit the world and travel took a huge plunge I had no choice but to close my business.”

Cath now works as an administrator for BHP at Nelson Point in the site infrastructure team.

It is here that the story turns to netball. Cath is in her second year as President of Port Hedland Netball Association.

“Netball is life; I am extremely passionate about the sport and Port Hedland Netball Association. Taking on this opportunity has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Not only has it helped me grow as a person, but it has been my way of giving back and being involved within the community.

“I’m so excited every Tuesday night when I arrive at 4.30pm, open the gates, turn the lights on and prepare for the night’s competition.

“Netball has brought me such happiness and I hope that when our players arrive each Tuesday that they feel the same. The committee are amazing, and we all share the same passion.”

Cath is working to develop potential career pathways within Netball WA for Port Hedland players.

“We have so many amazing athletes from football, netball, touch, all different sports. It would be great if these talents could be supported and acknowledged on a higher scale,” she said.

Like many before her, Cath recognises that Port Hedland has taken her out of her comfort zone, presenting opportunities and adventures she would never have experienced had she remained in the relatively safe confines of Melbourne.

Now a perfect weekend away includes “camping with my partner and my doggo”. “Pack up the car, let’s just drive for hours and pull up somewhere to chill out and unwind. My favourite thing to do would be to watch the sunset on 80 Mile Beach.

“Don’t get me wrong; I still love the city life but give me 80 Mile Beach any day.”

Not bad for someone who was horrified at the thought of a swag when first asked to go camping.

“I have made such amazing friendships in Hedland; unlike any I would make in Melbourne. I think that this is because living in a small town we all understand each other as we are all feeling the same things,” Cath said.

“I have grown to love Hedland over the last six years and realised that it is a great and easy place to live. I never thought I would feel so at home when I moved here.”

Now Cath has her own Port Hedland story to tell.

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