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Hunter netballers set to thrive in Academy program

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Newcastle players dominate the Hunter Academy of Sport’s 2023 netball squad, with 15 young guns named in the line-up.

Paiton Cook, Acacia Elers, Xuela Faasisila, Layla Fearnley, Sarah Graham, Eden Hilder, Emmy Jensen, Lana Kaal, Elle Kaluski, Matilda Lidbury, Mia Marshall, Matilda Percival, Sienna Porter, Maddison Ridgeway and Ella Tupou all gained the nod to showcase their talents on the court.

They’ll be joined in the annual program by Callaghan District’s Harriette Arnall, Halle Clemente, Mya Foster, Sienna Porter, Maddison Ridgeway and Ruby Swain, Charlestown duo Olivia Cullen and Ella Smith, Maitland pair Evie Manning and Ellie Stacey, Lakeside’s Ellora Greirson, Charlie Griffiths, Amelia Ockerby and Sofia Pirillo, along with Emma Cooke (Great Lakes) and Taylah Belcher (Metro League).

Officials include Kirra Pilarski (Callaghan), Ella Young (Charlestown), Ally Miller, Mackenzie Winn (Lakeside), Bethany Knight, Abigail Mackaway (Maitland), Yasmin Alexander, Zaara Alexander and Ella Sames (Newcastle).

The players and umpires will not only train together over the coming months but also participate in two Academy tournaments.

Also returning this season is Greater Bank, who is now into its eighth season as major sponsor of the Hunter Academy of Sport’s netball program.

Since coming together in February under the guidance of head coaches Jade Nicoll and Kirstie Fuller, the athletes have taken part in a series of fitness tests, been put through their paces and worked through the fundamentals of the sport.

Hunter Academy of Sport CEO Brett O’Farrell said this year’s squad, who has already shown great progress through their early sessions, was a good mix of new and returning members.

“The program provides the best young athletes from across the region with the opportunity to train and compete at an elite level with the aim of preparing them for higher honours in their career,” he explained.

“The coaching staff has assembled not only a very talented group, but through the early stages they’ve also displayed a terrific work ethic and plenty of enthusiasm when it comes to their training.

“Fitness and skill development will be the focus of the first training block, which no doubt will reap rewards when they take the court at the Your Local Club Academy Games in April.”

Following that tournament, the squad will break as players head back to their respective associations to prepare for the State Titles in June.

They’ll then resume training in July before travelling to Port Macquarie in September where they will compete against 10 other Regional Academies of Sport from across the state in the Greater Bank Academy Challenge.

Chief distribution officer – Greater Bank Emma Brokate said the organisation was delighted to continue its support of netball in the region.

“We’ve been a long-time supporter of grassroots netball across regional NSW and we are delighted to continue to extend this support through our ongoing partnership with the Hunter Academy of Sport’s netball program,” she stated.

“This collaboration not only provides financial support for the initiative, but we will also be conducting financial literacy education sessions in association with the University of Newcastle that will assist the athletes in their personal development off the court.”

Along with the Hunter Academy of Sport, Greater Bank is also the major sponsor of the Western Region and Central Coast Academies of Sport netball programs.

The 2023 squad

  • Athletes program – Harriette Arnall, Halle Clemente, Mya Foster, Sienna Porter, Maddison Ridgeway, Ruby Swain (Callaghan), Olivia Cullen, Ella Smith (Charlestown), Emma Cooke (Great Lakes), Ellora Greirson, Charlie Griffiths, Amelia Ockerby, Sofia Pirillo (Lakeside), Evie Manning, Ellie Stacey (Maitland), Paiton Cook, Acacia Elers, Xuela Faasisila, Layla Fearnley, Sarah Graham, Eden Hilder, Emmy Jensen, Lana Kaal, Elle Kaluski, Matilda Lidbury, Mia Marshall, Matilda Percival, Sienna Porter, Maddison Ridgeway, Ella Tupou (Newcastle), Taylah Belcher (Metro League)
  • Head coaches – Jade Nicoll, Kirstie Fuller
  • Manager – Kiona Sunerton
  • Umpire program – Kirra Pilarski (Callaghan), Ella Young (Charlestown), Ally Miller, Mackenzie Winn (Lakeside), Bethany Knight, Abigail Mackaway (Maitland), Yasmin Alexander, Zaara Alexander, Ella Sames (Newcastle)

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