All week Netball Central has played host to some of the best and brightest netballing talent from around the country with the 2015 Australian Secondary Schoolgirls Netball Championships.
All eight States and Territories are being represented during the six-day tournament, which concludes today with the Finals and Play-Offs being contested from 9:00am. The tournament is being hosted in conjunction with Netball Australia and the NSW Combined High Schools Association, with the title of 2015 Champions not the only prize to be won.
Selectors – including NSW Institute of Sport Netball Head Coach Anita Keelan and former NSW State Coach Joanne Macdermid – have been keeping a close eye on the on-court action and are tasked with the decision on which athletes will be included in the 2015 Australian Combined School Girls Team who will travel to New Zealand later in the year to contest the Trans-Tasman Challenge.
Considered the first step in their representative careers, past Australian School Girls athletes include Australian Diamonds Kimberlee Green, Sharni Layton and Caitlin Thwaites, as well as their NSW Swifts teammates Kaitlyn Bryce (2011 Captain) and Stephanie Wood.
The tournament first began 1923 as the Australian State Schools’ Basketball Association, which was originally developed for primary schools and played predominantly on grass. Over the years the tournament grew from three States participating, to a truly-National competition featuring all States and Territories.
Throughout the decades, the competition grew along with the sport, first by changing its name to Netball in 1970 and also by introducing interchange or Bench players in 1982; a revolutionary move which was later adopted by Netball Australia in the 1990s.
1991 was the first year Netball Australia became affiliated with the Australian Schoolgirls competition, with former Diamonds Head Coach Jill McIntosh becoming involved over the next 13 years. The tournament has also seen international participants from Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Malaysia and Samoa across the years.
The first Australian Secondary Schoolgirls Team attended the Trans-Tasman Challenge in 2002, which was co-Captained by two former NSW Swifts Julie Corletto and Jo Sutton. The inaugural team of 12 athletes contested matches against a Netball New Zealand Secondary Schools Team, Maori Team named ‘Aotearoa’ and Pacific Islands Team named Pasifika.
In a terrific effort playing against athletes a few years older, Australia claimed the Grand Final with a hard-fought one goal victory over NZ Secondary Schools – coincidentally on the same day the Diamonds defeated the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Match in Manchester.
A partnership agreement between Netball Australia and School Sport Australia was signed that same year, with both parties agreeing to work cooperatively and in partnership to promote and develop netball in schools at both State and National levels.
This partnership grew in 2009 with an official Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formalising the 15 and Under Championships, including Netball Australia allocating umpires and bench officials, providing coach mentoring, and team of selectors to decide on the final Australian Schoolgirls representatives.
Once selected, the 2015 Australian Schoolgirls Team will travel to New Zealand as per tradition in 2016 to contest the Trans-Tasman Challenge and hopefully continue the tradition of the healthy Aussie v Kiwi rivalry.
Congratulations to all participants who have enjoyed the 2015 Australian Secondary Schoolgirls Netball Championships, and best of luck for the final day ahead.