The 2014 Netball NSW State Age Championships are just days away, and for many past and present NSW Swifts, ‘State Age’ was their first taste of representative netball and formed an important part of their netball pathway.
One such player is dynamic midcourter Paige Hadley, who represented the Penrith District Netball Association at four consecutive State Age Championships.
“I played all my junior netball for St Clair Netball Club and I was lucky enough to be selected in Penrith’s 12/U, 13/U, 14/U and 15/U rep teams,” Hadley said.
“I don’t remember where my first State Age Championships were played, but I recall we came second that year. In fact, in the four events I played in, our team finished second, fifth, second and fifth – so a real pattern to our results.”
For Hadley, the State Age Championships were also the meeting place of future NSW State Team and ANZ Championship teammates.
“In my particular Age Division it was always the Manly-Warringah and Sutherland Shire show; they were the two dominate Associations at the time, and I’m still playing with or against some of the girls from those days, such as Brooke Miller and Gabi Simpson,” Hadley said.
One of the highlights at any State Age Championships is the sight of Tent City surrounding the courts, where up to 160 teams bunker down during the three-day event. For 21-year-old Hadley, Tent City formed many fun memories from State Age.
“My first impression of Tent City was that it was a maze, and when it rained everyone would put down hay to try and stop people slipping over or to reduce the overly muddy shoes,” described Hadley.
“But tents were just the best thing because that’s where all the food was. So after a game we would just go back to the tent and feast on food before the next game.”
Someone who was by Hadley’s side during the entire State Age experience was her mother, Sandra. And while Paige has long traded the Penrith colours for Swifts’ Red, the Hadleys association with State Age continues through her mum, who is the current coach of the Penrith 14/U side.
“Mum started coaching a rep team a couple of years after I finished competing in State Age; as she just wanted to be a mum during my playing days. But she obviously loves her netty and isn’t one to say no, so she got involved in coaching,” explained Hadley.
“She has been coaching her current team since they were in the 12/U division, so they have been on the State Age journey together.”
While Hadley is making great progress from a season-ending ACL injury sustained during the Swifts’ 2014 campaign, she is looking forward to being a spectator at this year’s Championships, and has her own piece of advice to all participants.
“It’s always great to get back to where you started, and I’m hoping to get to both venues this year to see some familiar faces at the netball courts,” Hadley smiled.
“My one piece of advice to anyone playing at this year’s event is to just enjoy it. As a team you create so many memories together and form lifelong friendships. Sure your body will be sore after the three-days of competing, but you’re only young once, so just enjoy every minute of it.”
Netball NSW would like to thank Coast2Coast for their support as an Official Partner of the 2014 State Age Championships.