FORMER NSW Swift Jackie Byrne is adamant Wagga star Sophie Fawns has the talent and determination to wear the Diamonds dress one day after being elevated to the Swift's official squad for the rest of their Super Netball title defence.
The 18-year-old shooter has been rewarded for three stellar displays for the club, after a round one knee injury ended the season of Trinidad and Tobago international Sam Wallace.
She has impressed enough to be named as a permanent replacement player on Thursday, after helping guide the Swifts to a one-goal win in Adelaide on Wednesday night.
Former defender Byrne has been doing training drills with Fawns for the last few years, and watched her play in the Swifts' win over Collingwood last weekend, where she shot 24-27, as part of the club's heritage round.
She said Fawns' work ethic, on top of natural ability, means she is capable of eventually playing on the international stage.
"It (her ceiling) has got to be Diamonds," she said.
"She's a natural athlete with height and strength, and her shooting is just so accurate anywhere in the circle.
"There's been a lot of great netballers from our region, but I think Soph's just got that extra determination and commitment. Every drill she does, she does at 100 per cent.
"That's the different between some of the talented girls we've had (here) and Soph making it."
Playing alongside England shooter Helen Housby with Swifts, as well as coming up against superstar defenders like Geva Mentor (Collingwood) and Shamera Sterling (Adelaide) would be daunting for most teenagers.
But Byrne said her level headedness is coming to the fore.
She's mature beyond her years and doesn't seem fazed by the big name defenders she's coming up against," she said.
"It's so nice to see she's going out there and playing her game. She's believing in herself and backing herself.
She's had tough opposition the first three games and it's not like it's been an easy run, but she's taken it in her stride and makes it look easy."
Fawns, part of Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes' flags in 2019 and 2020, said she hopes to provide inspiration for other country players looking to crack the big time.
"I just love playing netball and the support I've had from Briony (Akle, coach) my teammates - especially Helen, Sam and Kelly (Singleton) - has made me feel really at home," she said.
"I hope this shows all regional netballers that there are many ways to get to the Swifts, and all those days spent travelling up and down the highway are worth it.
"There will be ups and downs, but I want to keep developing and learning from whatever comes my way.
"I could never have done with this without the love and support of my family who've backed me every step of the way."
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Fawn's elevation is a big display of mental strength given her mother, Maureen, lost her battle with ovarian cancer late last year.
"She's come through a tough time of late but her family, friends - especially everyone down in Wagga - and
coaches and teammates she'd had at all levels of the game should be immensely proud," Akle said.
"Sophie was due to play Nationals with the NSW 19 years and under team in Tasmania next week, but I think it's a testament to the Netball NSW pathway that she's been able to step-up and fit in at Super Netball level seamlessly.
"Elite sport isn't always highs, there will be hard days on court too, but we know Sophie has what it takes and now we want to take her to the next level."
"Sophie has brought her own style and approach which really adds something new to our attack.
"She is a great kid who's proven if you're good enough, you're old enough. The past two week she's gone toe-to- toe with international standard defenders and more than held her own."
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