The University of Newcastle is this weekend sending their women’s and mixed netball teams to the Gold Coast to contest the 2019 University Nationals.
This time around, the competition will be dialled up to eleven for the competing squads in Queensland, after both teams earned their place in the top division last in their last campaigns in the games.
For women’s coach Traci Baber, who helmed Forsythes to a second-place finish in the region’s Greater Open Championship this season, it’s a challenge she’s very much looking forward to, and that’s a sentiment her whole team shares too.
“It’s the best of the best in Australia that we’re going to be facing, which really makes it into an even more interesting competition that we want to win,” she said.
The teams, selected in the middle of the year, had more than 50 players take to the courts in an effort to join the top-ranked squad. In the end, Baber assembled a star-studded regional roster that’s ready to challenge the best.
Premier League stars Sabina Gomboso, Eliza Hand, Madeline Melville, Jazmyn Rodwell and Nakita Jackson headline the women’s side, and are joined by Sally Jenkins, Abbie Johnson, Georgia King, Sophie Perkins, Claudia Rodwell, and Lucy Starkey.
The women’s squad auto-qualified for promotion to the top grade after a bronze-medal battle saw them finish in the top four last year. They will be joined by the mixed squad, who also earned promotion during their 2018 campaign.
Bradley Cram, Ben Duncan, Tiueti Holland, Tyeson Lalaga, Aneeka Marcozzi, Renee Pettet, Tom Robson, Veronica Smith, Connor Thorp, Angela Williams, Kim Williams, and Clare Wright make up the mixed squad.
“The goal is always to bring home a medal, gold is always good but we’re always happy with what we achieve. Our goal is to go out there and play some great netball,” mixed captain Williams said.
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“We’re really, really looking forward to going away and coming up against these other university teams when we get to the Gold Coast,” Baber said.
“All over the court the 12 that I have are extremely talented, extremely talented. I believe we have a real chance to challenge for the title this year. I’m super excited, and I’m very lucky to be involved with it. This is my third year with the team.
“I think every year the squad is getting stronger, and we’re trying to promote the elite level that we want to the girls to be able to play. Sometimes the Uni Games can get a bad wrap, but I can say that nationals are the highest level that can be played.”
Both netball squads are set to travel to the Queensland venue this weekend. The tournament proper begins on Monday, September 30, when more than 5,000 students, staff, coaches, and managers arrive on the Gold Coast for the event.
As well as the netball teams, the University of Newcastle also boasts rosters in men’s baseball, women’s basketball, women’s futsal, rowing, men’s tennis, mixed touch football, mixed ultimate, and men’s and women’s water polo.
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