From July 7-9, Netball Australia ran the inaugural Indigenous High-Performance Camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra – the first of its kind in netball’s history.
Over the three days, 21 talent identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes from across Australia took part in courtwork, personal development workshops, cultural activities and a community netball clinic, with exposure to the likes of former Australian Aboriginal Diamonds, Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM and Sharon Finnan-White OAM as well as Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander and current Diamond, Caitlin Thwaites.
Sharon Finnan-White OAM, the second, and last, Aboriginal athlete to play for the Australian Diamonds, believes the Camp, which has been in the making for two years, has been an invaluable experience for the athletes.
“The girls have experienced so much, and have taken a lot in and I’m just hoping that when they walk away, that they have almost everything they need for them to know if they want to take that next step.”
Finnan-White was amazed at the growth and maturity of the athletes in such a short time.
“The amazing thing about these girls is that they’ve come in relatively shy, not wanting to speak up to now feeling comfortable and opening up and speaking up.”
Monique Chong, a 15-year-old state representative from Alice Springs appreciated the opportunity to be mentored by the coaches who attended the Camp.
“Working with Lisa, Marcia, Ali and Sharon has been amazing. I think having the female role models here has inspired us all.
“Their pathways have been a really, really tough journeys, and I think it’s made us all realise that if we want to be professional athletes, it’s our time to step up now.”
The balance of court work and personal development workshops across the three days has given Monique the confidence to take her netball further.
“The court sessions have helped me realise my weaknesses but also my strengths.
“As we’re going up into the more elite, high-performance training, a lot of it is based around skill and technique, fitness and agility which is a shock to me,” said Chong.
“The Camp has made me realise I have a lot to work on, which is what I needed to be exposed to if I really want to be a professional athlete.
“I think now, I have the tools and the connections I need if I really want to be a professional netballer. I have people on my side.”