Hunter netball star, Sam Poolman, has embraced the challenges of ‘bubble life’ for a second year as her and her Giants teammates strive for Super Netball supremacy.
She took time out of her busy schedule from her Gold Coast hub to chat about another COVID-affected Super Netball season, as well as the plans for her highly successful Aspire Netball program, supported by Greater Bank.
COVID has disrupted the Super Netball season again this season. How have you adjusted to life in “the bubble”?
This season is definitely better than last year’s hub. In 2020, we had a condensed season all based in Queensland with very little movements.
This year though has been beyond what we could have ever expected. We’ve moved around nearly the entire country to get the season in, which has presented plenty of challenges.
Constantly moving hotels, sometimes with four hours’ notice, charter flights, lost luggage, so many COVID tests, not to mention the days of quarantine and the flagged hotspots we experienced. It’s been a rollercoaster to say the least that’s required all of us to respond and act under pressure. While we know we are made for it, it’s certainly exhausting.
It’s taken a complete team effort to keep our season alive. I’m very appreciative and proud of the workload and commitment from Netball Australia and everyone involved within the sport. We all hope that those who are affected and doing it tough with COVID are enjoying watching sport at home and it provides a little enjoyment in their lives during tough times.
What has been the greatest challenge from the experience and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenges have been dealing with the unpredictability of COVID and the need to adapt quickly. I’ve always been a planner but in this environment everything can change within an hour. This has really taught me to be in the present and deal with what’s in front of you. This has never been my strength but l’ve enjoyed the challenge of adapting and being flexible.
Who are the morale boosters among your Giants team-mates?
Our young ones certainly provide entertainment, but l think everyone has taken on that responsibility at some stage. Each day, some players will struggle, while others will have a great day. So, it’s about embracing the moment, stepping up and providing the support whenever you can. When you are the one who is struggling, it’s this support that gets you through.
The Olympics Games provided us with a massive boost. We were all glued to the TV and inspired by our incredible Australian athletes.
COVID’s not only causing interruptions to the Super Netball Season but also your Greater Bank Aspire Development program? What can you tell us about where the program is at?
The program is normally delivered over a six-month period but we’ve extended this out to the 12 months to ensure we can deliver the program to its fullest, while dealing with the challenges of COVID.
We’re hoping to connect again with our Aspire Netball/Hunter Academy athletes in September. We have a great program planned for them and it’s ready to go.
We’ve had to put Aspire Development on hold for a few weeks given the current situation with Sydney and NSW. Our program normally runs at the end of representative seasons so we pushed back to September to align with the rescheduled State Titles.
Whatever transpires though, I’m confident we can continue to adapt to deliver the program in a safe way for all involved.
You’ve been running Aspire now since 2017. How has the program grown and evolved and where would you like to take it?
Aspire started out as one program in conjunction with the Hunter Academy of Sport and quickly progressed into four programs that strategically fit into the Netball NSW pathway. The response from players and Associations has been great and the number of participants continues to grow.
There’s a number of original Aspire players from 2017 who are now playing in the top premier league competition and we even have one player in the NSW Swifts Academy. I’ve no doubt we will see more in either the Swifts Academy or Giants Academy in the coming seasons.
What I’m also proud of is seeing a number Aspire graduates giving back to their local association by coaching through Aspire Development. I love seeing them sharing my passion for the sport.
Aspire Netball is currently delivered in the Hunter and Central Coast Regions but I hope to involve more regional-based athletes. We currently have some players from Northern Inland and North Coast travelling to Newcastle to take part, so I’d love to take our programs to those areas in the future.
Our biggest achievement yet would be the addition of our 11s Development Day. This program falls under our Aspire Development program banner and sees 22 netball associations from around the Hunter and Central Coast Region bring their 11-year-old squads in a day of player, coach and umpire development. The day has also allowed us to raise $20,000 for Netball Australia’s Netball Charity Confident Girls Foundation.
Tell us about the role Greater Bank has played in supporting the Aspire program and grassroots netball generally.
Greater Bank has been our biggest supporter from day one.
They understood our vision and purpose for the programs and the impact it has on our community and aspiring netballer's. The support from Greater Bank has allowed us to expand and engage with more netballers across the region.
Greater Bank has a long history of supporting our netball communities and local academies. Broadening this support to the Aspire Netball has been incredible. We are seeing more players feature within the state’s programs, which is the reflection of the support Aspire and Greater Bank are providing.
How can aspiring netballers who would like to get involved find out more?