All conquering Karuah Pearls gearing up for more success in Port Stephens Netball competition

Karuah Pearls coach Aunty Pearl Manton and with her all conquering Under 12s premiership-winning netballers. (L-R) Mia Johnson, Isabella Sellick, Bella Dickson, Matilda Blundell, Isla Johnson, (front) Grace Charbel, Micah Aro and Maalaa McLennan. Absent was Emma Anderson.

WHEN netball educator Pearl Manton formed the Karuah Pearls Netball Club three years ago, she identified genuine potential in her band of fresh-faced rookies.

Participating in the Net Set Go program, the energetic ten-year-olds demonstrated their natural skills on the netball court in a sign of things to come.

So impressed was ‘Aunty Pearl’ that she fielded an Under 11s team in the Port Stephens Netball Association competition the following season, with encouraging results.

The side developed into a competitive combination and reached the Grand Final where they were pipped by three goals in an entertaining duel with Medowie.

A delighted Pearl reaped the rewards last year when she guided the girls to an undefeated premiership in the Under 12s division, unearthing a host of top prospects.

The well-drilled Karuah juniors blitzed the Dungog Dazzlers 48-9 in the title decider to cap a memorable campaign, with Aunty Pearl saluting the team’s rapid progress.

“As coach it was about building self-esteem and team work as a base before focusing on the netball skills,” Pearl, a Karuah Public School Aboriginal Education Officer, told News Of The Area.

“They have grown in confidence with each game and play so well as a unit,” Pearl revealed.

Five of the girls – outstanding goal attack Maalaa McLennan and goal keeper/shooters Matilda Blundell and Mia Johnson (11yrs Development), along with talented defender Isla Johnson and classy centre/wing attack Bella Dickson (12yrs) – were selected in Port Stephens Association representative teams, where they performed strongly.

All players contributed to the team’s stunning success with the gifted McLennan, who was recently selected in the Australian Indigenous Under 13 Schoolgirls team, a real driving force.

Maalaa caught the eye of selectors with her goal scoring prowess for NSW at the National Indigenous Under 13s Schoolgirls Championships on the Gold Coast.

Along with Mia and Matilda, the trio showed their high understanding of the game and versatility during the Port Stephens competition and have made an impact at either end of the court.

Other Pearls players to impress were determined newcomers Grace Charbel and Isabella Sellick and the agile Dickson, Emma Anderson and Micah Aro.

“Maalaa is only eleven but lifts her teammates on court with her skills and tenacity and will-to-win,” Pearl stated.

“The girls are quick on their feet, able to jump high and feed the ball into open spaces, when and where it’s needed,” she quipped.

“Both Micah and Isla have netball knowledge and know how to read the play before it’s even happened.

“I’ve loved seeing the girls grow as players and as individuals,” she added.

Aunty Pearl doubles as Club President and hopes the Pearls can field four teams in this year’s Port Stephens Netball Association series.

Her goal in 2024 is “to have a whole court that has lighting and is safe for our growing club”.

By Chris KARAS

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