Titles the next step on pathway for future stars

_F9A4654LiFor Netball Australia’s National Pathway Manager Stacey West, the highlight of the calendar is when the national underage championships roll around every year.

It’s where she and the national selectors get the chance to run their eyes over the best up-and-coming talent in the Australian netball system.

Next week the best 17/U and 19/U netballers from every Australian state and territory will be in Melbourne for their respective national championships, being played at the Waverley Netball Centre from 7-12 April.

West said the underage titles are an important step for athletes in the National Pathway, especially as Australia begins to identify potential players for the next World Youth Cup campaign in 2017.

“This competition is the highlight of my calendar every year; an opportunity to see all eight states and territories represented at one event and seeing the icing on top of the cake,” West said.

“There’s been a lot of work done with these athletes leading into this event. The states and territories have been working very hard developing them and then we get to sit back and observe the results as part of the program.

“There’s a really high percentage of athletes that play 17s and 19s who go through and play for the Diamonds, so it’s a recognised pathway.

“The national championships always bring an element of surprise. There’s an athlete who is new into the system and we think `that’s amazing’. The uniqueness of our sport is what I really like. We can capture an athlete and they haven’t been through our traditional structures, yet they appear somewhere in our program and all of a sudden they’re identified.

“(NSW Swift) Gretel Tippett is a most recent example. She was from a basketball system, moved into our netball system for one ANL competition and has made her way through to an ANZ Championship franchise.”

Netball Australia’s pathway system has been streamlined following a review process with the Australian Sports Commission and there’s a clear structure in place for all levels from the ANZ NetSetGO national junior introductory program right through to the elite.

westycropWest knows first-hand what’s required from an athlete in the pathway program, having been through a similar system while growing up in Darwin.

Having played for three seasons in the former Australian national league with the Melbourne Phoenix and coached at state and national levels over the past decade, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her role as National Pathway Manager.

“I hope that I can bring a whole range of skills from my diverse experiences into the role,” she said.

“I also have a great network of people in Netball Australia that I identify with. (Diamonds coach) Lisa Alexander drives the technical direction and having direct contact with her, knowing what a Diamond athlete currently looks like and what they have to be to compete internationally really assists me to design what sort of athletes we bring through the pathway.

“We also understand that it’s not always a linear progression. It doesn’t always happen that an athlete will enter the pathway and go all the way through the system.

“They may exit for a period of time for a variety of reasons and then they can re-enter again. The pathway is designed to be flexible in nature so we can capture athletes in and out of various stages of their development.”

At the end of the national titles, selectors will name Australian squads for both the 17/U and 19/U age groups.

Both squads will attend mid-year training camps at the Netball Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. However West stressed that every player who represents their state or territory in Melbourne next week will be closely monitored over the next few years.

“It’s important to know that they are in our talent pool, they are part of our pathway and it’s important that we foster the development of all those athletes throughout the system,” West said.

“Our member organisations do that very, very well.”

You can follow the results of the 17/U and 19/U National Netball Championships via the Netball Australia website www.netball.com.au for all the daily results and match reports.