Craigieburn Thunders’ inclusion champion joined by Samsung Australian Diamond

Niketa Loftus has been recognised with a 2018 Australia Post One Netball Community Award for her efforts in supporting multi-cultural communities and helping families facing socio-economic disadvantage take part in netball.

As a winner Niketa received a visit from Melbourne Vixens star Caitlin Thwaites, who joined in on the Craigieburn Thunders training session earlier this week. The Samsung Australian Diamonds shooter was there to run through drills and sign autographs for all the aspiring players of the Victorian club.

Niketa first joined the Craigieburn Thunders after being volunteered by another parent to coach an under 9s side back in 2014. Although her team played there first season without making it onto the board, they continued to play together for another five years and are now undefeated in a division two age groups above.

With Niketa leading the way she has been able to gain sponsorship to fund uniforms, registration and game fees, and create an inclusive netball environment that has grown from one team to a club of five teams. The family-like club has become a safe space for players regardless of cultural background, ability, family struggles or financial hardship.

Thwaites said the quality of nominations each year demonstrates the passion and commitment of many unsung individuals who work together to create environments where everyone feels welcome in netball.

“In my role as an Australia Post One Netball Ambassador I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time with incredible individuals and organisations, who work with such dedication to develop netball programs that everyone can participate in, regardless of their background or ability. Niketa’s achievements are inspiring.”

Australia Post General Manager of Marketing and Community, Andrea Pearman said: “As Netball Australia’s Community and Social Inclusion Partner it is a privilege to bring these Awards to fruition each year and recognise outstanding people, like Niketa, who are doing such amazing work, often in their own time, to bring people together and create inclusive, healthier communities.”

“The stories that we see each year of the wonderful diversity and inclusion work being done right across Australia reinforces the importance of these Awards, and other programs like it, in highlighting the power of sport to help communities work better for everyone. Niketa’s commitment deserves to be celebrated and it serves as a great example for others to follow.”