Trio into academy teams

By Patrick Tansey

Three local netballers have been selected in the new Junior Netball Development Academy, starting next year.

Barooga Netball Club’s Mackenzie O’Dwyer has been named in the under-12 squad, while her sister Keeley and Cobram Netball Club’s Ruby Higgins both made the under-13 squad. Mackenzie played primarily at goal attack for the Hawks this season and was looking forward to getting stuck into the program, which starts in February in Shepparton.

‘‘I really enjoyed the trials and got to meet heaps of girls I didn’t know beforehand. I’m looking forward going back,’’ she said.

Keeley is a flexible player and was used as a shooter and in defence this year, depending on her team’s needs.

She enjoyed the trial experience and was looking forward to improving further as part of the squad.

‘‘There were three lots of trials and they were really fun. The coaches were really good and gave me some feedback to help improve my skills,’’ she said.

Ruby spent this year playing at goal attack and said shooting and getting the ball to her goal shooter were here best skills.

‘‘I’m excited that I made the squad, but nervous, because I don’t think I know anybody else that made it. It will be good to learn new skills and work on my game,’’ she said.

An initiative of AFL Goulburn-Murray, the academy will benefit individuals, clubs, associations and junior coaches.

Academy co-ordinators Melissa Wells and Peita Sleeth were excited about the prospect of growing junior netball in the region.

Wells said the aim of the academy was to connect the pathway in a more co-ordinated manner and to provide a structured and focused development program for the selected participants and coaches.

‘‘The program will consist of 12 sessions overall at each age group with a focus on skill development, game sense and personal growth,’’ she said.

Sleeth liked what she had seen from squad members in the trial phase.

‘‘Coaches and selectors were very impressed with the high level of skill and effort demonstrated by all players through trials, which made selection of athletes for the academy extremely difficult,’’ she said.

‘‘Overall, this is an exciting addition to the netball community and we are looking forward to a high service being provided to academy participants through 2019 and beyond.’’