THE Muswellbrook Netball Association kicked off its 2018 State Age Championships in strong fashion on Saturday.
The three-day Netball NSW tournament is one of the biggest junior sporting events in the Southern Hemisphere – and the locals are primed for a big effort in elite company.
Muswellbrook’s under-12 division three squad – Gabby Fuller, Grace Kelly, Hayley Passmore, Claudia Murray, Ashleigh Loft, Audrey Sinclair, Alivia Cullen, Imogen Meissner and Millie Chapman – remains unbeaten after day one.
The side accounted for neighbouring Singleton (10-7), Ballina (32-7), Cessnock (19-13), Eurobodalla (21-6), Nelson Bay (10-9) and Southern Highlands (23-5).
The girls meet Great Lakes, Tumut, Grafton, Nambucca Valley and Leeton on Sunday, before wrapping up proceedings against Griffith, Westlakes District, Manning Valley, Forbes and Tamworth on Monday.
Muswellbrook’s under-13 division three outfit – Zanaya Cullen, Sherri Brown, Josie Matthews, Hannah Kermond, Niamh Bray, Amara McTaggart, Sienna Comerford and Lluka Moffitt – registered four wins and a draw in its first six matches.
The talented youngsters knocked over Westlakes District (16-9) and Tamworth (13-4) before suffering a loss to Port Stephens (15-12).
They bounced back to beat Singleton (14-4) and Grafton (17-15), drawing with Great Lakes (11-all).
“We started training in February with a chosen team of eight players,” Sally Comerford said.
“And, as coach, it was my goal at the start to reach the State Age Championships with a side of eight fit, strong, healthy and uninjured girls.
“As a team, we have achieved this, with the help of our amazing assistant coach Kylie Froml, our wonderful manager Kristine Kermond and our reliant and always caring primary carer Darrell Byron.
“Entering the State League carnival early in the year, which consisted of two competitions at Wyong and Lakeside, and a further four carnivals throughout the season – at Newcastle, Great Lakes, Singleton and Tamworth, the girls certainly grew stronger as a unit and as individuals.
“Training twice a week consistently for three hours, and playing Saturdays, has helped them all to improve their skills and their fitness in readiness for State Age.
“All of them are dedicated and show such commitment and determination.
“They have grown within and formed such strong bonds and friendships with each other.
“I am loving this journey with all of them.
“I’d like to thank MNA president Sheryl Folpp and rep coordinator Jackie Dever for their support throughout the season, as well as the coaching team, our sponsors for all their generosity and, of course, the parents.”
The under-13s face Manning Valley, Cessnock, Griffith, Nambucca Valley, Mudgee District and Eurobodalla on day two and Tumut, Ballina, Leeton, Southern Highlands and Wollondilly on Monday.
Muswellbrook’s under-14 division three troop – Priya Gill, Sarah Gray, Sarah Walker, Isla Hamson, Memphis Dever, Imogen Owen, Abby Howard, Charlotte Kelly and Illuka Norman – captured three wins and as many losses.
The side upstaged Wollondilly (18-8), however Ballina proved too good, 18-10.
They then secured victories over Cowra & District (13-8) and Griffith (11-8), but went down to Shoalhaven (23-11) and Southern Highlands (13-12) at the end of the day.
The local association locks horns with Nelson Bay, Temora, Tamworth, Singleton, Forbes and Eurobodalla on Sunday, and City of Sydney, Cessnock, Casino, Great Lakes, Barellan & District and Tumut on Monday.
Muswellbrook’s under-15s, contesting division two in 2018, found trouble early against Lismore (25-16).
But, Bridie Clinch, Shae Reynolds, Heidi Richards, Clare Howard, Chelsea Bowditch, Aneira Bray, Meg Southcombe and Amber Morgan responded with victories at the expense of Shoalhaven (22-19), Grasshoppers Fiji (18-16) and Parramatta Auburn (23-9).
Defeats to Leeton (18-16) and Blue Mountains (22-14) upset their momentum.
They’ll go head-to-head with Inner Western Suburbs, Maitland, City Of Sydney, Tuggeranong, Blacktown City, Lakeside and Hastings Valley on Sunday, then mix it with Charlestown, Dubbo, Bathurst, Orange and Cowra & District 24 hours later.