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Hunter Netball: Ella Smith named Metro MVP


Promising youngster Ella Smith has credited her team-mates for helping her claim Hunter Netball’s top honour for the Metro League season.

The local outfit – coached by Lexi Unicomb and managed by Sally Unicomb – contested the highly-competitive Sydney-based competition in 2023.

And, the girls were far from disgraced on the elite stage, picking up a few wins and taking many other matches down to the wire.

Hunter Netball’s Most Valuable Player Ella Smith with manager Sally Unicomb (left) and coach Lexi Unicomb. Photo: Rod Thompson

Following Hunter Netball’s “positive season of development”, Newcastle teenager Smith was named the side’s Most Valuable Player at the presentation at Central Leagues Club on Sunday 17 September.

“I’m very grateful and thankful,” the 17-year-old said.

“I believe we’ve had a great season as a team, so I honestly think the award could have gone to anyone.

“But, I’m really honoured.”

Hunter Netball’s Players’ Player Carrie Lind with manager Sally Unicomb (left) and coach Lexi Unicomb. Photo: Rod Thompson

Players’ Player went to shooter Carrie Lind, defender Ella Tupou went home with Most Consistent and the Coaches’ Award was shared between Olivia Pirillo and Tara Fidock.

Hunter Netball accounted for Inner West (42-26 and 44-36) and Ku-ring-gai (40-31), as well as a 35-all draw with the latter rival.

“I believe we definitely had a lot of growth over the year,” Smith told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Those back-to-back victories were really good for us and gave us a lot of confidence.

“However, other than the results on the scoreboard, the girls learned how to play well together and formed combinations to make it work best for our team.

“It can be hard at times, playing on a weekly basis in Sydney, but I’m sure it will help us in the long run.

Hunter Netball’s Most Consistent Ella Tupou with manager Sally Unicomb (left) and coach Lexi Unicomb. Photo: Rod Thompson

“A few of us are also doing our HSC, while others attend uni, so everyone’s still in school.

“We play for our local clubs, too.

“With travelling and training commitments, for all sides, it’s definitely a learning curve.

“But, I think it’ll serve us well into the future whether we pursue Metro League again, chase our Premier League dreams, or just develop our netball overall.

“We’ve gained that experience now and playing different people/opposition.

“For me personally, I’d love to play Premier League at some point.

“However, I’m also keen to keep developing as a netballer, taking my game as far as I can and reaching the highest level [I can].”

Hunter Netball’s Coaches’ Award recipients Olivia Pirillo and Tara Fidock with manager Sally Unicomb (left) and coach Lexi Unicomb. Photo: Rod Thompson

Smith admitted she owed the Unicombs a big thanks, too.

“I’ve had Lexi and Sally with me for the past two years… and they go above and beyond for all the girls,” she said.

“So, we’re all really grateful for everything they do.

“It takes a lot of dedication and commitment… from all the training sessions to all of the extra effort they put in.

“We are especially appreciative of them.”

The Hunter Netball squad consisted of Lind, Mia Marshall, Ella McCluskey, Kienna Clegg, Zahlee Connolly, Fidock, Lilian Howe, Xanthe Rheinburger, Emily Morgan, Pirillo, Smith, Tupou and training partners Erin Dalzell, Famke McCallum, Lara Mellon, Midori Rees, Tahni Sunerton and Lucy Webber.

Hunter Netball Metro League awards

Most Valuable Player: Ella Smith

Players’ Player: Carrie Lind

Most Consistent: Ella Tupou

Coaches’ Award: Olivia Pirillo/Tara Fidock

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