Whirlwind Rise for Young Bryce

With the end of 2012 on the horizon, netballnsw.com caught up with one player who has reached great heights during the year.

In truth,  it has been a whirlwind two years for Kaitlyn Bryce, a 17-year-old who has had a busy netball schedule since being selected in her first State Team in 2011, culminating in offer of an Australian Institute of Sport Scholarship for 2013.

Netballnsw.com chatted with the Shoalhaven junior about her netball schedule – how it has all unfolded and “what’s next” for the 2012 Marj Groves Scholarship recipient.

Growing up on the South Coast, Kaitlyn began playing netball with Shoalhaven when she was eight years old. A lithe and zippy little Goal Attack, she went on to represent Shoalhaven at the 2010 Netball NSW State Age Championships, before being lured to Sydney.

“I played for the PSSA [Primary Schools Sports Association team] when I was twelve and at the encouragement of my coach at the time, I came to Sydney to play indoor,” Kaitlyn recalls.

“From there, when I was fourteen, I played at Fairfield Netball Association for a year, and that opened my eyes to the netball opportunities available to me.”

Those opportunities presented themselves and a year later, in 2011, Kaitlyn was selected for the NSW All Schools team.

“I went to Toowoomba for the All Schools Carnival and from that tournament I was selected in the Australian School Girls team – that was where it all really started,” says Kaitlyn.

That same year Kaitlyn was selected for her first State Team, joining the NSW 17/U side when she was just 15 years old.  NSW finished Runners-Up to traditional rivals Victoria in the Grand Final (33-31); however the nail-biting Grand Final was not the only highlight of the competition for Kaitlyn.

“Even though I was devastated we had lost the Grand Final, from Nationals I was selected in the Australian 17/U Squad – it was a huge surprise and I was ecstatic,” Kaitlyn says.

Kaitlyn’s leadership qualities were recognised when she was appointed Captain of the Australian School Girls team, and the team remained undefeated during a Tour of New Zealand.  Challenging for anyone, Kaitlyn’s netball career shone while she juggled high school and the six-hour round trip from the South Coast to Sydney to play for the Sutherland Shire Division Two team in DOOLEYS State League.

If Kaitlyn thought 2011 was a big year, it was only a teaser of what 2012 would bring. 

This year Kaitlyn’s excellent netball leadership was rewarded when she was selected as Captain of the NSW 17/U Team.  The sky blues remained undefeated at the tournament, enacting revenge on Victoria for their 2011 defeat with a 10-goal victory, claiming the 2012 title.

To add to the 17/U State Team’s incredible achievement, Kaitlyn was named Most Valuable Player for the tournament.  Kaitlyn was also selected for the Australian 17/U Squad for a second consecutive year.

Kaitlyn credits her Grand Final performance at Nationals as opening the door on her netball career.

“Coaches seemed to recognise something in me from that 17/U Grand Final, and that’s when I started to get pushed harder to show what I can do,” Kaitlyn said.

“As a player you always want coaches to give you a chance, an opportunity to really prove yourself. In 2011 I had a lot of self doubt as I thought I was too young and it was too early; however this year I have had a change in my attitude.”

Along with 17/U honours, Kaitlyn stepped up to play for Sutherland Shire’s DOOLEYS State League Waratah Cup team, in the midcourt rather than in her traditional position in the shooting circle, and she was integral in her team claiming the 2012 crown.

Kaitlyn ticked off another career goal in June when she was selected to run out with the Netball NSW Waratahs in the 2012 Australian Netball League in August and September.  Joining the 2011 ANL Champions, Kaitlyn was astonished at her selection.

“I was so emotional I just started crying – it was the biggest shock,” said Kaitlyn.

“It was a massive step up from playing athletes from my own age group at Nationals to coming up against really experienced players, some who even played for ANZ Championship teams.”

“The biggest lesson for me was learning to do one thing at a time; I’m guilty of trying to do everything all over the court, but it was important for my game and the team that I learn to play as part of an overall team.”

In November, Kaitlyn was named in the 2013 AIS Netball Squad along with 14 other Scholarship holders, including returning NSW teammates Kristina Brice, Brooke Miller and Amy Sommerville.  Kaitlyn will join her AIS teammates in March next year, focussing on preparing for the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships (WYNC) to be held in Glasgow during August.

Although, at 17, she is the only AIS netballer not included in the Australian 21/U squad with a view to WYNC, Kaitlyn says she will work hard to put herself in the best position possible for selection.

“I’ve been selected to attend the AIS program as a midcourt player, and with players such as Paige (Hadley), Maddy (Proud) and Kim Ravaillion all in the mix, I know I will have to work really hard to be considered,” Kaitlyn said.

“Sue (Hawkins) believes I have it in me to be selected for Glasgow, so I’ll do my best, train hard, and see what happens.”

Kaitlyn credits NNSW Waratahs Head Coach Sue Hawkins for really fast-forwarding her career.

“If Sue hadn’t given me an opportunity with the Netball NSW Waratahs I really don’t think I would be where I am today,” states Kaitlyn.

“She gave me a chance even though I am still young and have a lot to learn. Sue helped me simplify my game so I wasn’t over exerting myself on court [and she is] helping me with my NSWIS training until I leave for AIS next year.”

One thing Kaitlyn will miss when she moves to Canberra next year is her role as a NSW Swifts Match Volunteer.

“I love being a Swifts volunteer –the atmosphere of cheering fans watching the games is great,” says Kaitlyn.

“But most of all I love helping people enjoy the total experience and hearing them cheer loudly for the girls.  I’m sad I won’t be able to be a volunteer for season 2013 but hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to play in front of those loud fans as a NSW Swift.”

In the meantime, Kaitlyn continues to train hard at NSWIS before she takes a well-deserved break over Christmas with her family in Shoalhaven.  Christmas will be just her third visit home for the year, and Kaitlyn says she will be making the most of the downtime.

“I plan to sit back, enjoy some of mum’s delicious cooking, and just take a moment to reflect on everything that has happened this year,” Kaitlyn says.  

“Everything has moved so fast, sometimes I just can’t believe where I’m sitting. Moving to AIS, 2013 looks set to be another huge year for me so I’m going to enjoy everything while I can.”