Jean Cowan (nee Wood) had a distinguished career in netball at the highest level from the 1930s to the 1950s. A member of the Victorian schoolgirls’ team in 1927, she went on to gain selection for the Victorian state team in 1932.
She was a member of the Victorian team named in the four years immediately preceding World War II, and captained the team in 1945, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1951.
In 1936, 1938, 1939, 1947, 1949 and 1950, Cowan was named in the All Australian carnival team. In 1938 she was a member of the Australian team that played New Zealand in the first international women’s ‘basketball’ game between two countries. The following year, Cowan was also selected in the Australian team that was to have toured New Zealand in 1940, but the war prevented this series. In 1948 she was vice-captain of the Australian team that toured New Zealand to win all three Tests and 22 out of 23 matches.
Awarded her All Australia Umpires’ badge in 1948, Cowan became an administrator even before her retirement from active netball. When she retired from the Victorian Netball Association Council in March 1986, she had had 40 years as an official including 20 years as either treasurer, secretary, or president.
Cowan was also one of Victoria’s delegates on the All Australian Netball Council for a number of years including one year as president. In 1997 the Victorian Netball Association established its own Hall of Fame and Cowan was one of the six inaugural inductees.
Cowan was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1976 for her service to netball.