COLLINGULLIE netball coach Bettina Goolagong believes the depth of Indigenous talent is an untapped goldmine after nine Wagga players were chosen to represent NSW at January's Australian Indigenous School Girls Championships on the Gold Coast.
Goolagong organises a Koori team, which now boasts two under-12s teams, two under-14s a mixed senior and women's squad, that play in Wagga's twilight competition and competes in Aboriginal championships across the state.
"The biggest benefit is not only are they developing their skills, but they're also meeting other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls in NSW," Goolagong said.
"They're meeting their mob from around the state."
Goolagong hopes helping Indigenous players develop a love for the game will help more talent graduate to the big stage like Super Netball and ultimately the Diamonds.
"All you can do is show them the way and hopefully they love it enough to train hard hard to get to that level," Goolagong said.
"All we can do is make it as fun as possible for them so they keep coming back and giving it a go.
"It comes down to how hard they want to train and how much they want to commit to the sport. But there's definitely ability in the girls.
"It comes down to the players and giving them the training and hopefully encouraging them to play."
Goolagong was rewarded for her hard work by being named the NSW winner of the Australia Post One Netball Community Awards recently.
"It was really nice. One of the girls' grandmothers (Lee Williams) nominated me and they're there all the time too. They show just as much commitment bringing them to training and games," Goolagong said.
The number of girls in her program has doubled over the past year, and many Indigenous players are involved in Collingullie's squads.
Goolagong's daughter, Tamsyn, won the Riverina League's under-17 best and fairest this year by a single vote and will compete on the Gold Coast.
"I believe she is closing the gap and more Indigenous girls are playing because of her," Williams told Netball NSW.
Bettina added: "Nothing beats watching the kids playing the game and watching their development, not only in sport but life in general."
The girls selected for the national championships are seeking fundraising assistance to help cover the costs of travelling to Queensland.
Anyone interested in assisting can contact Melissa Clear-Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOCALS CHOSEN IN NSW INDIGENOUS SCHOOL GIRLS SQUADS
UNDER 12S: Gabrielle Fellows and Kaelani Goolagong.
UNDER 14S: Aaliyah Kennedy, Chloe Clark, Monique Dennis and Kyesha Miller.
UNDER 16s: Tamsyn Goolagong, Indiannah Johnson and Demi Williams.