Sam Poolman. Photo-supernetball.com.au

Newcastle's Young Citizen of the Year and Giants defender Sam Poolman is working to open up netball pathways for kids from the bush,

Giants defender Sam Poolman hails from the regional town of Newcastle in New South Wales so she knows how tough it can be for kids from the ‘sticks’.

It simply wasn’t as straight forward compared to those living in the suburbs of Sydney.

It took hours of commitment from the Poolman family driving to and from training and lots of money spent on fuel for the car. So, now she’s on a mission to help the next generation.

Three years ago, Poolman created the Aspire netball program which is based in the Hunter region of New South Wales.

“I knew how hard it was to one commit to that as an individual but to also have the family and financial support to get to training, put all those hours in and then put petrol in the car,” she said.

“For me I wanted to provide the opportunity that I got in the pathway, back at home in the Hunter region.

“That’s where Aspire netball was created. It’s three years old now we’ve had some really exciting achievements with athletes through our program progressing into the state’s pathway.

“We also have our 11s development day where 22 netball associations, which is our entire region, come together in the 11-rep space.

“Last year we did it on the back of the Netball Australia bushfire relief. We raised $12,000 which went to that fund and a percentage went to confident girls which is our netball charity and as a region we were really proud to come together to develop our players, coaches and umpires and also to collectively donate to what seems forever ago talking about the bushfires and what happened there.  

“We decided to make it an annual event. Giants Netball are involved which is really nice.”

From the program starting off three years ago, to now where there are girls who have progressed across the pathway and are now looking to get a spot in the NSW-based teams’ programs academies.

“It started as an idea, one program with about 30 players. It spread into multiple programs that fit in the New South Wales pathway. That just highlighted the need and the want for something like that was there,” Poolman continued.

“Girls that started with us three years ago who were at the start of their netball journey are now being selected into state programs and our premier league franchises in the Under 23 space, they are doing really well.

“We do have one girl from when I started Aspire is in the Swifts academy this year. This is really exciting for her and we have a few girls that are really close to knocking on that door in terms of the Giants academy.

” I can still support them through a mentor role, but they’ve now progressed and are continuing to achieve throughout the pathway but then they come back and mentor and coach throughout Aspire.

“It’s nice when they come back and relive the impact that Aspire had on them and also their local netball community and give back in that coaching and mentoring role.”

For the work that Poolman has done in the community and her work with the Aspire program, she was recognised as Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year.

“It was really nice, they don’t tell you that you’ve won the award they tell you that you’ve been nominated – I was really honoured to be even thought of or for someone to put forward me and my story,” she said.

“When I kindly declined because I had training, they kind of chased me a bit. I had to ask for the day off of training from Julie (Fitzgerald) to be able to go, I never miss anything, it was a clash in my values, but she was really supportive and told me that I had to be there.

“I was really glad I went, it was a really special award and for me having the impact in my hometown and my region that I’m passionate about but while I’m still playing a sport it is a pretty great achievement.”

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