Newcastle’s only national league netballer hopes to be a role model for the Hunter’s young players after moving closer to home.
Goal keeper Samantha Poolman joined new Sydney franchise the Giants on Thursday to play in the revamped National Netball League from February.
The move from the Adelaide Thunderbirds brings her closer to her family and boyfriend, Jets goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, in Newcastle. But it also returns her to the NSW netball system, where she is the only Newcastle player to reach the national league in the past eight years.
The 25-year-old hoped the new league’s greater visibility, its drastically improved player wages and her own presence in a high-profile NSW franchise would help inspire Hunter netballers to follow her into the elite level.
“I hope that all of us players continue to make it bigger and inspire other Newcastle netballers that when they play in the new league it will be even bigger than that, and hopefully they’ll be classed as professionals,” Poolman told the Herald.
Netball Australia has entered into a five-year partnership with Channel Nine and Telstra which will deliver the new league a Saturday night, prime-time double-header live on free-to-air television.
But Poolman said: “We’re not there for the money. I do it because I love it. All these other things that come in are fantastic, but I’m just more hoping to inspire young girls. There’s more girls who are striving to be successful in sport, which is fantastic.”
Poolman worked as a Netball SA ambassador in Adelaide. Now she is back in NSW, she hopes to establish connections with netball in Newcastle and has already reached out to the Hunter Academy of Sport.
The five teams in the defunct trans-Tasman championship, the Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens, NSW Swifts, Queensland Firebirds and West Coast Fever, will join the Giants, Collingwood Magpies and Sunshine Coast Lightning in the new national league.
Poolman played the past four seasons with Adelaide, who finished last with a 2-11 record in the Australian conference this year.
She enjoyed more court time than she had in her previous three campaigns, but she hopes her profile will grow again when she moves to her new team, which is aligned to the GWS Giants AFL club.
The 25-year-old has reunited with Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald, who used Poolman as an injury fill-in at the Swifts before the 190cm defender moved to Adelaide.
“In terms of the coach, the team, the new competition, it ticked so many boxes for me,” she said.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to, and a bonus of it being at home, and playing in my home state is something I always strived to do. It all kind of fit.”
Poolman, who played for the Australian under-21s in 2011, is joined at the Giants by Swifts stalwarts Kimberlee Green and Susan Pettitt and English internationals Jo Harten and Serena Guthrie.
She hoped Newcastle netballers would adopt her new team as their own.
“I hope that I inspire them to at least get on board with the Giants and follow that team and know that I’m around.”
GWS host an AFL preliminary final on Saturday at Spotless Stadium against the Bulldogs, and Poolman said the excitement at the club was palpable at Thursday’s netball team launch.
“Obviously it’s all very exciting because the Giants in the AFL are doing really well, and they’ve got a massive game on Saturday, so there was definitely really big hype for them, and for them to be joining us as well is really exciting,” she said.
“Not every day do you get to be part of a new club.”