From playing Tuesday night netball for Eastern United, to being in the Australian under 17 squad in just two years, 18-year-old defender Mia van Wyk has taken the netball world by storm.
Van Wyk’s entry into Eastern United was not an ordinary journey. Asked to join a training session with a friend from her Saturday team due to an injury, she flourished with the opportunity.
Coach Jackie Carroll played her for a full game, and she felt an immense amount of exhaustion, but it was all worth it for her because it was just the start of her netball journey.
Just three years ago, she was playing representative netball while in year nine at school while relatively unknown in the netball world. Today, she is a member of the under-19 Victorian state team.
Originally selected for the side in 2021 for under 17s, van Wyk’s excitement for the tournament was unbridled. Unfortunately, the championship was cancelled due to COVID-19, and van Wyk found herself at a loose end.
“[We had] two weeks off [with] no netball. I can’t even pick up a training clinic or something. There was nothing to do, and I think for a while there I stopped playing,” Van Wyk said.
She found her journaling a big part of overcoming her struggle with confidence. Picking the habit up whilst playing representative netball, she discovered how much it helped her develop her goals.
Prior to departing for nationals, van Wyk saw a quote that stuck with her, ‘courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it’ on the internet. This quickly became the pinnacle of her journal.
She relates this to in-game and post-game thoughts with confidence plummeting, wondering if she could have done something different. For her, it is the thought of taking a breath after winning the ball or taking that one extra step.
In 2019, Henderson coach Fance Morrell threw bibs up in the air during a tryout, helping all the players feel more comfortable in a new environment. For van Wyk, that was the first ever grand final that she had been in, winning the state title that year.
Van Wyk first played netball at eight-years-old on a Saturday morning for Livingstone Netball Club. She then progressed to play representative netball for Eastern United at a tender age of 12.
Hailing from the Eastern suburbs of Victoria, van Wyk travels to Oakleigh every week to train with her VNL (Victorian Netball League) team the Wilson Storage Southern Saints.
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All of her work paid off throughout the 2022 VNL season as she was selected into the under 19s team of the year in defence.
“To be in the top four defenders in the league in my second year in VNL, it was absolutely amazing,” she said.
Van Wyk’s selection into the Saints was unlike any other. Competing in state titles with Henderson and training with the talent academy, she never actually trialled for the Saints.
Being invited to join the club was an honour and she never took it for granted.
Van Wyk’s most recent achievements include being selected into the 2022/23 Vixens Academy, winning Newtown and Chilwell A-grade best and fairest and earning a 2024 VNL contract with the Saints in their top division.
Some other achievements are debuting for the Saints in their championship division in April, going on tour with the Victorian Institute of Sport on a scholarship, and captaining Henderson in the under 17 state titles in 2022.
Having belief in her ability from a young age, van Wyk quickly realised that flying for the ball or shutting down her opponent is what she lives for. Noticing how much her hard work paid off, she strives for bigger and greater things.
“If that’s what I can do in a year, I want to see where I can push it in the next four years,” she said.
Making a jump from the under 19 division to open for the Saints in 2023, she is no stranger to the environment, having made her Division One debut in Round 12 in the 2022 season.
The belief in van Wyk’s coach (Matthew Cooke) to play her for a half was an immense confidence boost for her. Gaining more confidence and netball knowledge over the year, she was asked to compete against much mature players on a Saturday in Geelong playing A-Grade level.
Putting her hand up for the Victorian Fury, the competition was fierce with SSN (Suncorp Super Netball) athletes participating in the championships. Growing as a person and a player, van Wyk accepted that she was only 16 and there were many experienced players in the team.
“I really want to inspire the next generation of women, generally in sports, but also in just a leadership space,” she said.
Van Wyk is on her way to achieving this by participating in a City of Monash women’s leadership program. She also wants to fulfil her childhood dream of playing for Australia. Getting closer and closer every year, she has that soon in her future.
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