On a sultry Saturday afternoon 150 junior netballers decked out in bright yellow and navy Bond University training singlets took to the courts at Tweed District Netball Association in the first instalment of Bond University Bull Sharks’ ‘Cubs’ program.
Over the next few weeks, the roving talent identification and development program will visit the home courts of four Gold Coast netball associations – Tweed, Northern at Runaway Bay, Southport-Carrara, and Hinterland at Mudgereeba.
Participants aged between 10 and 16 will focus on ball work, footwork, attacking skills, defence and match play under the watchful eye of the entire Bull Sharks coaching team working closely with a revolving roster of Bond’s Sapphire and Ruby League players.
The program doesn’t only target players. Association-level coaches and administrators are welcome as participants or observers.
Bond University’s Head of Netball Operations Kim Boland says it’s all part of nourishing a mutually beneficial relationship between local and elite arms of the game.
“I think too much of a gap has emerged between local and higher end netball on the Gold Coast in recent times. It’s extremely important that we work closely with the Associations. Strong Association level netball is our lifeblood at the end of the day.”
Queensland Firebirds Mia Stower, Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Macy Gardner will make guest-coaching appearances at upcoming sessions. So too members of the crack Queensland Suns Mens’ Netball team.
After completion of the initial stage, players who impress will enter a second phase to work on advanced specialist skills.
Boland says structuring the program in a sequential way serves a very important purpose.
“Skill development in netball is very much defined by talent pathways. Junior club players aspire to represent their associations at State Age competitions. State Age-level participants strive for inclusion in underage Queensland squads. State representative players aspire to be Ruby, Sapphire and then Super Netball players. It’s important for young players to understand the ins and outs that kind of intensive progression.”
Meanwhile Bond Sapphire and Ruby players have stepped up their preparations ahead of the Bull Sharks’ 2023 campaign.
Boland says she’s been super impressed by the entire squad’s pre-season gains.
“The girls have been working incredibly hard in the gym, and their first few court sessions have been really exciting,” she said.
Although thrilled by the Bull Sharks’ collective effort, it’s a handful of fresh arrivals to Bond who have captured Boland’s attention.
“It’s extremely hard to single out individuals when the group as a whole has been so incredibly dedicated in pre-season,” Boland said. “But Dakota Newson who made the switch from the Gold Coast Titans is an incredibly hard worker, and I know many of the girls admire the way she goes about preparing herself to compete. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing new girls like Monique Piunti who joined us from Ipswich Jets, Hannah Le Sage out of QUT, and Chloe Arnold who’s arrived from Canberra get into their work too. It can be challenging to find your feet when you arrive from elsewhere, but these girls have settled in beautifully and I look forward to seeing what they can achieve this year.”
The Hart Sapphire and Ruby Series start in April.