Claire Kowald has always wanted to push herself to the limits. The young shooter started her representative career with Singleton’s junior system, before making the swap to Charlestown for under 15s and 17s.
After five years of representing Singleton and Charlestown at state, Kowald got her chance to take the next step. Hunter United coaching duo Helen Wilson and Babette Armstrong first laid eyes on the Singleton star at a carnival. They were blown away.
“Helen and Babette came to me at one of the rep carnivals I was at, and they were looking for a Hunter shooter. They approached me to come play for the Junction team in A-Grade at Newcastle. I knew it was a test run,” Kowald told the Women’s Chronicle.
“I must have played well enough in that game because Helen said she was interested in getting me on board, and I joined both the A-Grade squad, and the Hunter United team in the Metro League, playing in Sydney.”
Kowald’s first year in the league gave her a taste of higher-level competition. National and state stars mixed with developing talents at Sydney Olympic Park every Thursday evening. Singleton’s rising star learned something every week.
Now, the youngster has set herself a career goal: “I want to play in the Premier League. I want to test myself against the best, and keep doing that as long as I’m playing netball. There’s so much to learn, and it’s really fun to do that.”
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It’s been a tough road already, however. Travel times are already difficult for young Newcastle starlets looking to break into the Sydney competitions. It’s a two and a half-hour drive from the heart of Newcastle down south.
Kowald has an even longer journey she makes. She still lives in Singleton, and just the drive from her home town to National Park to play for Junction in the Greater Open Championship is at least 60 minutes one way.
The kilometres of the speedometer isn’t something that Claire has to deal with alone, however.
Her family has already been helping her travel to achieve her netball dreams, and a partnership with Sam Poolman and the Aspire program has helped her too.
“It’s a big commitment to be driving back and forward all the time, and I certainly enjoy playing so I’m happy to put the effort in,” said Kowald.
Giants goalkeeper Poolman has also been a major part of her growth. “On top of that, Sam has been fantastic in helping me adapt to that kind of lifestyle,” added Claire.
“When I was at Aspire she told me about her and her dad driving to Sydney nearly every other day of the week, and just how to manage it.
“A big part of it was making sure that you don’t get burned out, and keeping yourself balanced. That was a really important thing to learn from Sam, especially considering I’m doing Year 12 at the moment. It was so valuable.”
Now, as Claire makes her way through the final year of school, and couples that with the closing rounds of the Metro League and a strong finish in the Greater Open a fortnight ago, she feels like she’s found the balance that can propel her forwards.
“I’m not completely set on what I’m going to do next year, but I really want to get into one of those Premier League teams, like I said. I want to see how far I can take netball, and I know that I still have so much left to learn,” said Kowald.
“I’m so grateful for how much my family has put into my career, and how much the Singleton association has supported me in my dreams as well. I want to show them that I can make it that far. It’s exciting to think that could be coming up next.”
If you are interested in joining Sam Poolman’s upcoming Aspire program – which Claire is apart of at the Singleton association – you can register at aspirenetball.com/interest and the application process for the program will open on Sunday, August 25.