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Upper Hunter league product ends season on a high

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Talented Upper Hunter rugby league product Jules Kirkpatrick has ended the year on a winning note.

The youngster, who hails from Singleton, was recently awarded the third annual Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship.

It recognises not only her exploits on the field, but also her dedication, leadership and commitment to both academic and community excellence.

The Minerva Network currently supports 700 athletes from more than 70 sports, including Australian Women’s Cricket captain Alyssa Healy, Australian Diamonds netballer Sarah Klau, Paralympian Madison de Rozario OAM, Rugby 7s gold medallist and NRLW player Emma Tonegato OAM, Ellie Carpenter from the Matildas, and Olympic swimmers Cate Campbell OAM and Bronte Campbell.

It’s the only organisation of its kind, which offers elite sportswomen an opportunity to regularly network with other players and access to mentoring from some of the most senior professional women in Australia.

Kirkpatrick is the first Knights player to secure the scholarship, following Central Coast ironwoman Jemma Smith and Maitland-based para-athlete Aimee Fisher in taking out the prestigious honour locally.

The $10,000, 12-month grant will enable her to progress her Bachelor of Education (Secondary) Studies at the University of Newcastle while continuing her contractual commitments with the Newcastle NRLW side.

“I’m grateful to be a part of the 2023 Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship,” she said.

“And, I can’t wait to get involved in this powerful initiative.

“I am proud to be a role model on and off the field for the next generation of female athletes.”

A member of the NSW women’s under-19 State of Origin team in 2022, Kirkpatrick was also named the Tarsha Gale Cup Players’ Player in the same season before graduating to the NRLW squad in 2023.

She has her sights set on pushing for a debut in the top grade in 2024 after missing much of this year due to a knee injury.

Newcastle Knights chief executive officer Philip congratulated Kirkpatrick on receiving the 2023 scholarship.

“This isn’t solely focused on athletic achievements,” he said.

“It places a strong emphasis on academic and leadership qualities.

“Jules has long demonstrated an impressive balance between her sporting pursuits and academic responsibilities.

“Her dedication to maintaining high standards showcases a well-rounded approach to both sports and education.

“Our organisation believes that these qualities will not only contribute to the team’s success but also makes Jules a positive influence in the wider community.”

Chairman and co-founder of Minerva Network Christine McLoughlin AM said Kirkpatrick was the fifth young Australian athlete to be awarded a scholarship, since its inception in September 2020.

“Our committee undertakes a robust process to award it to an athlete where it’ll make a significant difference to their life,” she explained.

“Jules has displayed incredible drive and ambition, recognising the importance of an education that will set her up for ‘life after sport’.

“In recognition of her resilience, determination and energy, we’re proud to offer her the Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship, which will enable her to compete and train while she completes her studies.”

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