THE South Coast Blaze, the new franchise in the Netball NSW Premier League,has selected three male players to join the South Coast Blaze talent identification program (TIP) - including Shoalhaven pair Thomas Hodgkins and Mayson Griffith.
With the aim to find future Men's Netball NSW (MNNSW) players, South Coast Blaze, in partnership with Shoalhaven Netball Association, Kiama Netball Association and Illawarra District Netball Association, originally put a call out for male players aged 14-18 to trial for the youth male talent program.
Following restrictions around COVID-19 which prevented trials, the male program will merge with the female talent identification program this year, with new session dates to be confirmed in the coming months.
"Even though it is unfortunate that we weren't able to have trials for the male youth talent program this year, three applicants were strong enough that we felt it would be remiss not to have them join our female Talent Identification Program," South Coast Blaze chairperson Karina Franke said.
"Our purpose is to provide elite pathways for netball players on the South Coast, so having skilled male players join our talent program is not only important for their development, it is also important for the development of the sport in our region,"
Hodgkins (who plays WD and WA) and Griffith (C and WA) will join the Blaze's senior squad, while Sapphire Coast Netball Association's Christian Bownds is in the juniors.
These three male youth players will join 49 female players who were announced in the talent identification program junior and senior squads last week.
The TIP squads will receive specialist coaching from elite netballers, including former Sydney Swifts stars Nat Behl (nee Sloane) and Kimberlee Gilmour, and former UK Netball Superleague player, Donna Fearon.
Their male youth talent program coaches will also still be an integral part of the TIP program with guest coaches including; Blaze opens head coach Marji Parr, South Coast Blaze opens assistant coach and NSW men's reserve player Dennis Napara, Blaze under 23s assistant coach and Australian and NSW men's opens player Eugene Lee, Shoalhaven under 17s representative coach and NSW men's reserve player Sean Gray and Illawarra opens representative coach and former NSW men's player Heath Sangster.