School nets Firebirds' star trio

Published 5:00pm 14 March 2024

School nets Firebirds' star trio
Words by Nick Crockford

Above: Firebirds' Ruby Bakewell-Doran (fourth left back row), Isabella Shearer (fifth right back row) and Tippah Dwan (fourth left middle row) with Southern Cross netball players.

The fast-growing netball program at Southern Cross Catholic College has been given a major boost – a visit by three of Queensland’s top players.

Firebirds’ Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Tippah Dwan and Isabelle Shearer joined primary and secondary school players at the main Scarborough campus on Tuesday.

The trio held a question-and-answer session, signed autographs, posed for pictures and did drills with college students.

They were joined by Netball Queensland Regional Manager Paula Toonen as part of Southern Cross’ affiliation with the state sporting body.

“Having the Firebirds here is amazing,” Southern Cross’ Netball Manager Bianca Morschel said. “They are our girls’ sporting idols.

“We’re really lucky to have them join us and the affiliation with Netball Queensland. It helps us in many ways, such as finding good level coaches and good competitions.”

Southern Cross’ netball program started in 2018 with one team of 10, but Bianca said they “saw the potential and passion of staff” to drive the program.

Six years later it has four girls’ teams (1 Open, 1 Intermediate, 2 junior), one Open boys’ team and two primary school teams.

They were in Divisions Three and Four, but moved to Division One last year. However, Bianca said the program is judged on participating numbers.

“It’s about kids having fun, exercise, getting away from screens and community spirit,” she said. “We will always find opportunities for all who want to play.

“We’ve done a lot of work from primary to secondary, getting kids interested, sticking with it and getting to our major competition, QISSN (Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Netball).

“The number of players wanting to be involved surprises me every year.

This is the second year we have had an Open boys’ team. They jumped on board with a willingness to give it a go, having seen the benefits and where the girls have got to.”

Netball Queensland Regional Manager Paula Toonen said Southern Cross “has done very well getting people motivated and engaged in the program”.

She said it is “really important” to have players trying netball at school. “That’s where they start, like it and get the initial engagement," she said.

“A new cohort is coming through this year, attending carnivals, picking up skills and linking with experienced coaches to help them.

“I love seeing kids being able to enjoy the sport I love and this school is so supportive of its players. They want to building a program that is inclusive.”

Firebird Isabelle Shearer, who plays goal keeper like her idol ex-Australian captain Laura Geitz, said: “I love coming to schools and seeing kids really into netball. It takes me back a few years.

“I’m from Rockhampton. Being regional it was more difficult to meet (professional) players. That’s why I love these visits. It’s really cool meeting everyone here.”

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