When a young Sam Poolman first took to the netball court as a seven-year-old she would never have dreamed of the incredible, 20-year career that laid ahead of her.
Just over a year since retiring from the sport she loves, the Greater Bank Ambassador and founder of the ASPIRE Netball Program has been recognised among the region’s greatest ever athletes, being inducted to the Hunter Region’s Sporting Hall of Fame.
Sam was inducted on Thursday night at a ceremony in Newcastle alongside Clayton Zane (Football), Colin John King (Parachuting/Sky Diving), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Basketball) and Mavis Randle AM (Hockey Officiating).
Every great journey starts with the first step, and for Sam that was with the West Leagues Netball Club in Newcastle before progressing through junior representative teams, as well as the Hunter Academy of Sport netball program. She also represented her state at the National Underage Championships and was a member of the NNSW Waratahs in the former Australian Netball League.
At the age of 20, Sam was selected to be part of the Australian Institute of Sport’s Netball program, and within two seasons was making her National League debut with the Adelaide Thunderbirds where she was a member of their Premiership winning side in 2013.
The establishment of the Giants Netball in 2017 saw Sam return to New South Wales to become a foundation player and in her time with the franchise played in a further two grand finals before drawing the curtains on her 104-game career at the end of the 2021 season.
Sam represented Australia at 17U, 19U and 21U level and played for Australia in both the 2017 and 2018 Fast5 World Series, captaining the side in 2018.
While no longer playing, Sam is still heavily involved with the sport that has given her so much.
The ASPIRE Netball program, which she established in 2017, continues to provide opportunities for talented young netballers to develop their skills.
Sam is the Assistant Coach of the Giants Netball Academy that will take part in the Australian Netball Championships in Gippsland in August and the Head of Athlete Development at Newcastle Grammar School.
Sam was also a member of the inaugural Fox Netball Commentary team during the recently completed 2022 National Netball League season.
Retirement, along with recognition of her career through the Hall of Fame induction, has provided Sam an opportunity to reflect on her achievements.
“While you’re in the moment you are always working so hard to achieve something and then move onto the next thing. I’ve never been good at celebrating as there was always a higher goal to achieve."
“Now l am retired it’s nice to look back on what sport has given me and what I achieved.
“When I was coming through the junior ranks, l wasn’t a naturally gifted athlete. I had a passion for the game, strong work ethic and the coachability to progress through the pathway.
“There has been a lot of sacrifice along the way, not just for me but also my family, that enabled me to forge the career I had. The hours spent on the freeway and the financial commitment from my family was significant, all for me to achieve my dreams.
“On reflection, I’m exceptionally thankful for what the sport has given me and proud of what I have been able to achieve. This recognition and induction to the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame is very humbling."
Sam Poolman, Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame Inductee and Founder of ASPIRE Netball
Greater Bank’s Head of Marketing and Community Engagement Manager, Ingrid Kaczor, said the Hall of Fame recognition for Sam’s achievements on the court only tell part of her incredible story.
“Sam’s achievements on the court competing at the highest level in the game have been outstanding, but so too is her dedication to giving back to the next generation of players and the community through her ASPIRE Program and her other leadership roles,” Ingrid said.
“She is a wonderful ambassador and role-model for all young female athletes, whatever the sport, and it’s a real privilege to work with her and support the passion she has for the future of the sport.”
About ASPIRE Netball
Supported by Greater Bank, the ASPIRE Netball Program, developed and conducted by Sam Poolman, provides elite training programs for aspiring netballers aged 11 to 17 years.
The range of ASPIRE Netball programs provide young athletes with the opportunity to work on their skill development and progression in an environment where they feel supported and challenged. They aim to provide a platform that better prepares athletes to progress through regional, state and national programs.
Click here to find out more about the ASPIRE Netball Program.
About the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame
Launched in 1992, the Hunter Region Sporting Hall of Fame has recognised more than 350 athletes who were born and played their sport in the region before representing Australia or competing in an international tournament.
Click here to find out more.