Cassidy McLean, Gema Simon, and Sam Poolman share a laugh at the girls sport education seminar at Hunter Sports High on Tuesday evening. Photo: Isaac McIntyre.

Nearly one hundred young female sports stars and their parents from the Hunter region hung on every word at Hunter Sports High’s gymnasium as Cassidy McLean, Gema Simon, and Sam Poolman shared their stories of resilience on Tuesday evening.

The Hunter trio, all of whom are national or international stars in their respective sports of basketball, football, and netball, spoke about the challenges they had faced as they forged paths in their careers.

They also spoke to the crowd of assembled young women, answering questions about their journeys and how they overcame problems that arose every step of the way. There was even time for a few selfies with the stars at the end of the evening.

Sam Poolman, Cassidy McLean, and Gema Simon spoke to more than 100 gathered fans at Hunter Sports High.

“The night was all about resilience, and sharing our stories to the next generation so they can understand the challenges that they might face down the track,” McLean told the Women’s Chronicle on Tuesday evening.

McLean, who plays for the Newcastle Hunters in the Waratah League, and debuted for Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL last season, has been sidelined for most of 2019.

Just seven minutes into the Hunters’ opening game of the season, McLean ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. The 12-month recovery period, and the knee construction that comes with it, means she will miss the next WNBL season.

“It’s a long road ahead for me, every day I have to be resilient because I do miss playing and I want to be on the court,” the talented guard said. “Accepting what happened and what you’re going through is a crucial thing to make sure it doesn’t feel all over.

“I think a massive message for all the young girls that might face something similar to me is that it’s okay to be emotional, and to cry. It’s what I did at the start, and then you just have to accept it. Either you keep grieving, or you can use it as a motivator.

“When you look at the silver lining, I’ve taken this year to get stronger at my game, and get better, and I aim to get back into the teams and onto the court better than I ever was before. Once I accepted the injury, I’m kind of enjoying the new challenge.”

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Newcastle Jets and South Wallsend star Gema Simon may not have faced the same time on the sideline, but the Matildas defender also shared how to be resilient when it comes to  giving up personal dreams for the betterment of her teams.

The 29-year-old told the gathered crowd of her struggles to break into the starting side for the Matildas, and how her campaign led from the highest high of playing in the green and gold in Newcastle, to not playing a single minute at the World Cup.

“I quit my job, and fully commited to going to France with the squad for the World Cup, despite not having a guarantee that I was going to play,” she told the crowd.

Gema put on a brave face in France despite missing out on playing, because she knew the team needed her to provide that support at the World Cup. Image via Stephanie Meek Photography.

“When I was over there, I had a moment where I realised I wasn’t going to play a minute despite travelling all this way. I thought I was ready and had done everything that I possibly could. But I stopped getting feedback. I just didn’t play.

“When the game against Jamaica went by, the rest of the tournament I got no game time. I did everything I could anyway, and tried to be the best motivator for the team around me because we all had the same goals.”

Simon explained that although she had missed out on her own goals from France, she knew she was part of something bigger. She put her own disappointment aside, and rallied for the Matildas squad around her.

“If someone had told me that I’d travel over with the Matildas after quitting my job, and put all this effort into being ready, just to watch from the sideline, I’d do it all again without hesistation,” she said.

“I had a different role to play, and I’m glad it happened. My role was to help out with water, to train with the girls, and make sure they are ready. It was really tough, but around the team I was happy and always being positive.

“If I can do that, and the one-percenters, then I’ve played my part despite not playing.”

The girls sport education seminar celebrated another successful year with Sam Poolman, Gema Simon, and Cassidy McLean as guests.

As well as the opportunity to meet Sam, Gema, and Cassidy, the event also offered the opportunity for one young sports star to earn a sporting sponsorship.

Money raised from the $5 entry free will be pooled and donated to a young student who writes about what they gained from the seminar. The winner will be announced in the coming weeks.

The resilience-themed seminar was sponsored by Kylie Frearson (Property Solutions 101), Holly Martin (The Marketing GP), Louise Williams (Jenkins Legal), and Clare Ferguson (Monica Clare Recruitment).