Bright times ahead for Burgmann

Keeley Burgmann is a star on the rise after being selected in the Australian 17-under netball squad. 254189 Picture: ROB CAREW

By David Nagel

The art of resilience has taken on a new form in the world of Covid – with Berwick teenager Keeley Burgmann riding a roller-coaster ride to selection in the 2021 Australian 17-Under Netball Squad.

The 17-year-old goaler – and year-11 student from St Francis Xavier College in Beaconsfield – has been a regular Victorian representative since first earning selection in the School Sports Victoria (SSV) 15-Under team in 2019.

That initial SSV trip to Caloundra not only triggered her desire to reach the top levels of the game, but to this point in time is the only planned interstate trip that has actually come to fruition.

As a bottom-age player, Burgmann was selected as a vice-captain of the 2020 Victorian 17-Under team, and this year was named captain of the squad that was due to head to Tasmania to take on the best young talent from around the country.

But the affects of Covid put those exciting plans on the back-burner.

“The first trip (15 under) was pretty exciting, that was my first breakthrough into anything at a higher level,” Burgmann explained.

“We played in Queensland and stayed at Caloundra for a week, which was great, and we came second to South Australia.

“That was the point where I realised, I wanted to do something with my netball, I wanted to push myself and try for training positions at VNL clubs and things like that.

“Last year the nationals got called off a month out from the championships, because it was too risky with Covid to go the Tasmania. But towards the end of the year they put us in a Vic squad and we trained for a couple of weeks so it was good to get some training that we missed out on earlier last year.

“And then this year, a week out, nationals got cancelled again which was really devastating but did teach us all some resilience.”

Burgmann and talented netballers from all over Australia missed the opportunity to shine on the big stage and earn selection in the national squad.

But an expert panel of selectors, who have overseen a lot of the girl’s development over the last few years, joined forces to select this year’s Australian squad that will come together for a training camp from December 5 to 11 at the AIS in Canberra.

Burgmann said it was dream come true, and a surprise, to be identified as one of the brightest young talents in the country.

“When we first got the email, we were sitting on the couch and mum, dad and I just looked at each other and said ‘What…they’ve sent this to the wrong person, it must be wrong,” Keeley said with a laugh.

“We sat there for two minutes in silence because none of us knew what to say, we were all in disbelief.

“But it’s very much and honor and privilege to be part of it and it’s something that really means a lot because of the work you put in and the challenges we’ve experienced through Covid.

“It’s just a nice achievement after two nationals being cancelled and all the other things we’ve been through over the last two years.”

Burgmann is a natural leader, confirmed by her selection as captain of the state team, and it’s a responsibility she enjoys and takes seriously.

“I think I was chosen as captain because I was comfortable in the Vic program after doing it the year before, and that experience made me more vocal because I knew what it was like to be the bottom-ager.

“I use a lot of voice on court. I’m a very vocal player and try and lead by example. If I say something, or offer advice, I have to be able to back it up and do it myself.”

Burgmann doesn’t consider herself an elite athlete, but has worked hard at her craft to make up for those minor limitations.

“I’m not a very quick player so I have to be smart, thinking about my next move, the timing, and you start to learn when and where to move to, “she said.

“When restrictions allow, I do PT sessions on Saturday, and I’m very lucky that my dad (Shane) runs with me, sometimes six times a week and two times a day.”

But, while dedicated to her netball, she has a great outlook on life for a person of such a young age.

“I do work hard at it but it’s important to keep a good balance in life because netball could stop quickly if I got injured or something like that,” she said.

“My dream is to give it my very best shot and get to the highest level I can get to. Whatever that is…that’s whatever it’s meant to be.

“Everyone’s dream is to make it to the Vixens, but for me it’s just about making it to the highest level I can and I’ll be happy with that as long as I’ve given it my all.”

An added bonus of being selected in the national squad is earning a scholarship and access to elite training facilities at the Victorian Institute of Sport in Albert Park.

Burgmann will train two to three nights a week, with access to elite levels of strength and conditioning coaching, physios, doctors, well-being, life-style coaches and nutrition, sure to help her take her netball to the next level..

Her busy upcoming schedule – which includes training with Australia and the VIS, and doing year 12 in 2022 – is likely to change what her 2021 campaign looked like, which included playing A Grade for ROC in AFL Outer East and being captain of Hawks 17-under VNL.

And Keeley has certainly not forgotten her netball roots, which started by playing netball with friends in prep at St Michael’s Primary School in Berwick.

She joined the ROC Netball Club and Gippsland Storm in her first year at secondary school and worked her way through the age groups and divisions at both clubs.

Burgmann then fell in love with the Hawks and knocked back offers from other VNL clubs to join their program in 2019.

She left Gippsland Storm the same year but keeps a strong connection with the head coach at Storm, Simon O’Shanassy, who also doubles as her A Grade coach at ROC.

“He has played a massive part in my netball journey and he’s one of the people that have molded me into the player I am today” Burgmann said.

Keeley also wanted to thank her family – mum Jacinta, dad Shane, brother Josh and sister Taylah for their support, and also the many people who helped her forge her pathway in the sport.

“There are too many people to name individually, but I want to thank the ROC Netball Club, Gippsland Storm and Hawks…through those clubs there are multiple people who have helped me in so many different ways.”

And resilience has also played a part Keeley – in your roller-coaster ride to the top!