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Maitland opens squad ‘ready to go’ at Senior State Titles

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The Maitland District Netball Association’s opens team is “ready to go” when it steps onto its home court at this weekend’s 2023 HART Senior State Titles.

With the club hosting the prestigious tournament, from Saturday 10 to Monday 12 June, more than 5,000 people – from players to coaches, support staff to supporters – are expected to converge on the venue, which will stage the main championship fixtures, as well as the under-15s, under-17s (Div 1 and 2) and open male (Div 1 and 2).

But, that won’t faze the local girls – Grace Constable, Hannah Fox, Meg Haylen, Sophie Hickling, Hannah Ireland, Abbey Morgan, Jessica Mossman, Sophie Murdoch, Nikki Robson, Sydney Slade and Molly Young – who’ll embrace the occasion.

The Maitland opens squad – Grace Constable, Hannah Fox, Meg Haylen, Sophie Hickling, Hannah Ireland, Abbey Morgan, Jessica Mossman, Sophie Murdoch, Nikki Robson, Sydney Slade and Molly Young with coach Kellyann Huggins, assistant Jason Kozaczynski and manager Karen Robinson – with their game faces on. Photo: Rod Thompson

“I’ve told them it’s a very rare opportunity to get something as big as state titles outside of Sydney,” coach Kellyann Huggins said.

“So, to have the actual chance to play at home (Maitland Park) is surreal.

“I never had that in my playing career… and you’re never sure when it’s going to happen again.

“That’s why we certainly want to give it our best.

“It’s massive for the Hunter to host it.

“It is a real privilege to be able to play the Senior State Titles anytime, but to contest it here at Maitland is huge.

“The facility, you just have to look around, it’s looking really good.

“Everyone’s excited, that’s for sure.”

Huggins, who’s assisted by Jason Kozaczynski and manager Karen Robinson, said the talented youngsters had been gradually building for this event.

“We’ve been lucky to have the majority of the girls together for the past four years,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“It’s a young team, most of them are 19 or 20.

“However, we’ve got a few experienced heads in there this year as well.

“So, it is a good mix.

“2022 was their first real crack at the championship division.

“We had a positive weekend… and finished mid-table.

“But, we gave a few of the top sides a really good hit-out.

“So, hopefully, we can finish at the pointy end in 2023.”

Maitland will mix it with the likes of Baulkham Hills Shire, Bellingen, Callaghan District, Camden & District, Campbelltown District, Charlestown, Gosford, Hills District, Illawarra District, Liverpool City, Manly Warringah, Newcastle, Northern Suburbs, Orange, Penrith District, Queanbeyan, Sutherland Shire, Woy Woy Peninsula and Wyong District.

It’s an imposing assignment in anyone’s language.

“We’re expecting to be right up there [on the ladder] with the best teams,” Huggins said.

“The girls have enjoyed a good preparation.

“We contested a few carnivals and played Regional League.

“They’re just starting to grow as a group at the right time after a few seasons together.

“Our opening couple of matches are against Newcastle and Manly Warringah.

“It’s a tough hit-out to kick off our campaign.

“However, it will be a good indication of where we’re at, too.”

The remaining fixtures – opens (Div 2 and 3), under-15s and under-17s (Div 3 and 4) – will be played at the Newcastle Netball Association.

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