Six titles for netballers

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Sydney University Netball Club dominated grand final day at the Centra Courts at Concord on Saturday, winning six premierships in the Inner West Netball Association competition.

Three SUNC women’s teams won titles, with the ‘Cheetahs’ claiming the B1 premiership, the ‘Leopards’ the B3 title and the “Panthers’ the B4 title. The club also won the Division 1 and Division 2 Mixed titles through the ‘Mountain Lions’ and the ‘the Pumas’, while the ‘Cougars’ won the men’s title. The Panthers and the Cougars were also minor premiers.

The teams played in graded competition between April and September with each division fielding eight teams who played each other twice with the top four making the finals.

The club fielded two members who are on the Sydney University Sports and Fitness Elite Athlete Program in Charles Amos (B.Science/B.Advanced Studies), who played in the Mountain Lions, and Jason Welmer (B.Arts – Economics/Sociology), who played for the Cougars. Both players were selected in the NSW Under 23 men’s squad for 2023.

And SUNC President Charlotte Gorman (B.Animal and Veterinary Science) and Secretary Beatrix Thomson (B.Med Science) were also in the winning Mountain Lions team. SUNC Vice-President and head coach Jack Thomas, a University Blue and member of the NSW Men’s Open squad, also played for the Mountain Lions and Cougar teams.

While Thomas is primary coach of all teams, he calls on some of the club’s EAP members – Amelia Kirgan, Lauren Thomas, Abbey Baker and Mia Baggett – to run specialist sessions at weekly training.

“Our club is very young in this competition, this being our fourth year entering teams,” Thomas said. “Our teams are predominately student-based, but we are expanding to include alumni and others with out growth.

“In 2022 we had five teams, with two making the finals and one winning a title. This year we ballooned to 12 teams in the competition, with 10 making the finals, seven making the grand finals and six claiming titles. The only team to lose a grand final was the B3 ‘Tigers’.”

The coach said the men’s and mixed competitions are inaugural and likely some of the first of their nature across Australia with the rise of men’s netball post-Covid.

“The men’s teams brought together some stars like Jason and Charles, along with a bunch of blokes who have never really played netball before,” he said. “The start of the season was a bit rocky, but the team forged together beautifully towards the end of the season to take out a tense two-goal win over Balmain.

“Two other teams of note were the B1 Cheetahs and the B4 Panthers, who after four rounds only had one win between them. From that point onwards they did not lose another game.”

Note: The coach said each of the club’s teams have nicknames to give them some separation and identity, with the theme for all teams being ‘Big Cats’.