Shooting for the stars

Kim Dowson, Donna Marsh, Natalie Sloan, and Maddy Sloan are part of the new era at the Garfield Netball Club. 205739 Picture: RUSSELL BENNETT

By Russell Bennett

Strength, unity, and success – they’re the three words that will make up the guiding principles of the Garfield Netball Club moving forward, with an ambitious new concept aimed at enticing high-quality A Grade players with VNL (Victorian Netball League) experience or aspirations to join the fold.

Under the new initiative, the Stars are offering four sponsorship packages for suitable players to not only support them in their representative-level duties, but also help mentor and develop their existing crop of young talent in 2020.

In part, the concept came about as a way of helping to combat the rising costs of elite-level sport, and to provide role models that the Stars’ young players can emulate and learn from.

But, clearly, it would also provide a way for Garfield to take noticeable strides forward on court, with the success-starved club winning just one A Grade game since joining the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition prior to the 2017 season.

Spearheading the new initiative are Garfield A Grade coach Donna Marsh and her sister, club president Kim Dowson – alongside the netball committee – after they crucially sought guidance from the Garfield Football Club.

“I felt that there were a lot of girls from, say, the 16 to 22 age bracket who we – as a club – want to help, because they’ve got to start making decisions about their lives and the cost of living really is rising, which means the cost of playing sport is rising along with it,” Donna explained.

“If you look at some of these kids coming through, they’re so talented but their parents can’t afford to take them to the next level because it costs money.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it – travel just to get there to play at the elite level, uniforms, fees, shoes… we’re talking hundreds of dollars before the girls have even stepped on the court.

“It becomes so hard for these girls because the choice, then, isn’t based on whether they’re good enough to play high-level netball – it’s based on whether or not they can afford it.

“We’ve got some great kids who’re coming through our own club and we want to be able to turn around and say to them that if they want to go further, we’ll sponsor them – we’ll help them to go further in their endeavours so it’s not all just on the parents. That’s the idea of it, and it’s something I’ve looked at for a long time.”

The Stars are fortunate enough to have some committed sponsors who’ve played a key role in helping their concept become a reality.

Donna knows both club level, and elite level netball intimately – having played both. And now she’s also taken up a coaching apprenticeship role with VNL club, the Casey Demons.

“The idea with that is that I learn and develop as a coach, and can then bring those skills back to club level and support the girls,” Donna explained.

“I also have an understanding of what the girls in that pathway are expected to do.

“This isn’t just about the here and now, but the simple fact is that this league (the WGFNC) is one of the strongest netball competitions going around at the moment. “The top clubs have VNL players playing for them, and if we want to be competitive that’s what we have to look at.

“And it’s about developing our existing players to want to be VNL players too.

“This league is all about players striving to be better – striving to play at a high level.

“As a coach, I love watching the top-level teams – the Tooradin-Dalmores and the Dalystons of the competition. Those players are just magnificent to watch.

“For us as a club, this will only benefit us down the track.”

To inquire about the Stars’ A Grade sponsored player program, call Donna on 0438 562 924, or Kim on 0419 883 698.

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