After being sidelined for much of last season due to COVID restrictions, the Western Region Academy of Sport’s netball program is back in 2021.

The 28-member squad, including four training partners, assembled for the first time on the weekend at Bathurst Indoor Stadium where they participated in a number of activities encouraging bonding, communication and relationship building.

The squad will also take part in a training session on Wednesday at Wellington conducted by former Sydney Swifts Head Coach and former Assistant Coach of the Aussie Diamonds, Lisa Beehag, that will focus on a range of fundamental skills including footwork, passing and catching, ball movement, as well as a number of team drills that build to game-like scenarios.

The Academy’s netball program plays a vital role in the Netball NSW Athlete Pathway by identifying, monitoring and developing the skills of young netballers. The program will consist of on court skills training, fitness and athlete education, as per the Netball Australia Develop a Diamond program.

The squad will come together regularly over the coming months at various locations across the Central West and train under the guidance of head coach Linda McLeod.

Greater Bank will also continue its association with the netball program in 2021, after becoming its major sponsor for the first time in 2019. Head of Marketing and Customer Experience, Matt Hingston, said he has been impressed by the dedication and achievements of all involved in the program.

“Last year was tough for so many people across the community, including these young athletes who were unable to take to the court and participate in traditional training sessions, games and tournaments,” Matt said.

“I have no doubt though that the adversity, unexpected challenges and disappointments they faced has better prepare them for what we all hope will be a far more prosperous 2021 season.

“Our partnership with the Western Region Academy of Sport netball program will again provide more than funding to help offset the program costs for the athletes. This year we will also be conducting financial literacy education sessions in association with the University of Newcastle that will assist the athletes in their personal development off the court.”

In April, the squad will represent the WRAS at the 2021 Your Local Club Academy Games at Maitland Basketball Stadium and later in the year will travel to Orange for the Greater Bank Academy Challenge where they will compete against 10 other Regional Academies of Sport (RAS) from across the state.

The squad members will also represent their respective netball associations at the NSW State Titles in June to be held in Western Sydney.