She might live in Gunnedah but her success on the netball court has been with Glen Innes as netballer Eliza Perkins was honoured with the Northern Inland Academy of Sport’s female athlete of the year award.
Gunnedah tennis gun Andrew Osmond was named the male equivalent at West Tamworth Leagues Club at a gala dinner on Saturday night.
Perkins, 16, a member of NIAS’ netball squad and a state champion with the Glen Innes 17s side, was recognised after making the NSW under-17 development squad.
“I’ve been training so hard, so it’s good to get rewarded for that,” she said.
That hard work includes travelling to Sydney every Friday to train with the NSW squad.
But making her first state squad this year has imbued her with more confidence and brought sharper into focus her dream of playing at the spot’s pinnacle.
She is now in a strong position to push for state and national selection.
“When I made the NSW squad this year it [reaching the top] finally became a bit realer and I became a bit closer to my dreams,” she said. “I feel I now know what I have to do to get there and be able to achieve that.”
Perkins, who like Osmond attends St Mary’s College Gunnedah, is excited to be emerging in netball as the sport’s profile continues to rise.
She is also conscious of the players who have paved the way for her to hopefully enjoy the benefits of that progression.
“There’s so many more opportunities for the girls and so many new programs opening up to younger girls to one day hopefully chase their dreams and be such positive role models for young girls,” she said.
“It’s such a good time [for netball] at the moment with the new comp in Sydney and the new Premier League.
“They’re [the current crop of elite players] fighting for all us. For country kids to be able to go there and be able to do that is such an awesome opportunity.”
Osmond is playing in a tournament in Sawtell and could not attend the awards night.
But the head coach of NIAS’ tennis program, Jarrod Campbell, said the teen displayed the characteristics needed to get to the top.
“I remember Andrew when he was around 12 years old … he was talking about wanting to be the best in his age group, just in the North West region,” Campbell said
“At that stage he was sitting around fourth, fifth or sixth in the region. There were a few really good players ahead of him at that time … The message, like every coach to every athlete, was, ‘If you want to be the best you’ve just got to train harder and you’ve got to be on the court more than all the other people you’re trying to catch up to and get ahead [of].”
Fast forward four years and Campbell said Osmond was “wiping them all off the court and winning national and state titles and representing at all levels”.