The Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds have hit the road this off-season to give back to the netball community and help grow the game around the state.
The girls have covered more than 7000 kilometres already in visits to locations as busy as the Nissan State Age Championship at Pine Rivers and as remote as Mungindi, Weipa and Napranum.
Wing attack Caitlyn Nevins has been one of the side’s busiest travellers, visiting Cairns, the Canungra Schools Cup and University of Queensland’s Deadly Choices Sports Carnival among other locations.
Growing up as a junior in the small Victorian town of Echuca, the vice-captain said she greatly valued opportunity to get outside south-east Queensland share her love of the game.
“I’m from a country area and I think it’s really important to get out to regional areas and promote netball,” she said.
“It’s totally worthwhile when you get out to some of these centres and see all of the smiling faces – it absolutely makes your day. Seeing the passion and enthusiasm in the kids’ eyes brings you back to your own junior days.
“It’s really important we get out sport out. Some of the girls have travelled to areas where the kids have never heard of netball before. To see them pick it up straight away and really have fun doing it is what the sport’s all about. We all have a passion for netball and the ability to share that is really nice.”
Nevins said she was particularly taken with her trip north to Cairns.
“It was my first time to Cairns and I can’t wait to get up there again. It was great to see the environment and feel more familiar with my new home state of Queensland,” she said.
Firebirds rookie Jemma Mi Mi said she and club captain Gabi Simpson had a blast delivering netball programs to the remote far north Queensland towns of Weipa and Napranum.
“We spent three great days up there and stayed at the Weipa Caravan Park,” Mi Mi said.
“We went to Weipa’s local school and also delivered netball programs at Napranum’s PCYC. They were really eager to learn and had so much enthusiasm. It was really good to see the indigenous boys and girls loving sport and being so active.”
As an indigenous athlete, Mi Mi said she had been inspired to embark on a remote trip after witnessing the great work former Firebird Beryl Friday had done in regional communities.
“I always wanted to go out to indigenous communities, meet the kids and share my experiences to hopefully help them,” she said.
“When we arrived, the kids didn’t have a court, so Netball Queensland supplied them with some netball hoops. Their faces lit up – it was great to see them so happy.
“Gabi and I talked to them about the Firebirds family and the connections you make through sport. Netball is a team sport and comes with a family all of its own.
“It was a great chance to spread the sport of netball, share our love for the game and teach some boys and girls the skills.”