WINNER: Gympie’s top athlete has eyes on professional career
NETBALL: The competition was fierce, but up-and-coming Gympie netball star Hannah Ward has broken the shackles to earn the title as the top performing local athlete of 2020 so far.
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The 14-year-old came out on top with 31 per cent of the final public vote, edging young basketballer Jake Henry-May (25 per cent) and fellow netballer Matilda Gook (12 per cent) for the bragging rights.
In a year largely interrupted so far by the coronavirus pandemic, Ward has still found a way to take some seriously big steps toward what she hopes will one day be a professional netball career.
Not only has she made a Wide Bay representative side set to compete in Brisbane by month’s end, the young goal defender has clinched a spot in the USC Thunder academy set-up, which forms a potential pathway to the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
The Thunder academy has also afforded Ward the opportunity to grow her game under the tutelage of veteran Lightning defender Jacqui Russell, which the youngster said was invaluable to her professional ambition.
“It’s been really good having experienced players coaching me. Jacqui’s been helping me get my head around what professional netballers go through and their schedules and fitness plans,” Ward said.
“Getting into the Thunder was a bit of a surprise as well. Because of corona there hasn’t been much Gympie representative carnivals going on, but I’ve managed to get into two A-Grade teams on Monday nights.
“I’m also on a team for Caloundra, so I go down every Saturday for that.”
Despite dedicating four to five days each week to the sport she loves, Ward said she was shocked to come out on top of the online poll.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get that many votes, there were a lot of other great athletes in the competition. But it felt very good when I did get it.”
Gympie & Districts Netball Association president Colleen Miller was one of those to nominate Ward for the poll, and said she was very proud of the young gun’s progress this year.
“We’ve had our eye on Hannah for a few years now, and this year in particular she’s really come into her own,” Miller said.
“She’s playing some really good netball at the moment. She puts in 110 per cent every time she takes the court.”