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A GOOD SPORT: Matilda Emily van Egmond kicking goals on and off the field

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I’m somewhat lucky in my profession to meet so many interesting sportspeople, whether they’re famous or not.

But, this week, I felt privileged to catch up with Hunter-born Matildas star Emily van Egmond, who returned “home” for a couple of days after playing a leading role in the Australian side’s charge at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The global tournament, which took place in Australia and New Zealand, was clearly an outstanding success for the round ball game.

However, even more so for the Tony Gustavsson-mentored national team, which reached the semi-finals for the first time.

And, finishing fourth is the best result ever for an Australian side, male or female.

So, you can understand why City of Newcastle (CN) presented van Egmond, a Dudley-Redhead junior and Jets stalwart, with the Key to the City to recognise her achievement on the big stage.

The midfielder, who has already returned to the United States to resume her playing duties, was humbled to receive the honour but constantly reminded people it was a collaborative effort – in the lead-up to, and during, the World Cup.

She also praised fellow local Clare Wheeler for being a part of the squad, even though the youngster didn’t get on the field at all.

It’s a credit to the way van Egmond’s been raised by parents Gary and Annette, who were as proud as punch… and rightly so.

Her father will oversee the Jets’ A-League Women’s side in 2023/24 while her mother is the principal at Glendore Public School in Maryland.

The biggest surprise, however, has been the criticism on social media directed at CN, and Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, for honouring the Matilda.

Many felt “fourth” in the world wasn’t worthy of the moment, compared to winning the event.

But, the gesture represents more than a tangible result.

It also signifies the legacy the Aussie girls left on our country, which is set to inspire a new generation of footballers.

Hunter Netball Metro girls ‘do the region proud’

It would be remiss of me not to congratulate the Hunter Netball squad, which recently ended its playing commitments in the Netball NSW Dooleys Metro League.

Under the guidance of coach Lexi Unicomb, the youngsters – from all parts of the region – gained plenty of experience plying their respective trades in the Sydney-based competition.

It’s not an easy feat to tackle numerous metropolitan powerhouses on their home court, in Homebush, however the local lasses gave it everything they had.

Don’t forget, all the hours on the road to face their opponents each Monday evening either.

And, while the result on the ladder might not have gone Hunter Netball’s way in 2023, they’ve set a good platform moving forward.

It has also opened the door for more talented players to showcase their skills at a higher level.

Well done to Lexi, her assistants, the committee and the team for representing the region so admirably.

Lastly, but not least, a big pat on the back to the parents and family members who travelled down every week, offering their unfailing support.

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