Courting the dream

Bendigo teens share same netball goal as they line up together for Victoria

EVERY time defender Imogen Sexton looks up the netball court for an attacking team-mate to pass the ball to, she sees a friendly, familiar face.

No matter if she's playing for her club, school team, rep squad, the region or even the state, there finding space to receive in the mid-court is fellow Bendigo teenager Meg Williams.

The pair have shared an identical netball journey since joining forces in year seven at Catholic College in 2012, enjoying a string of achievements that almost boggles the mind.

Together, they played in a formidable CCB side that won both a School Sport Victoria state title and a Netball Victoria state schools championship.

They took out an NV association grand final representing the Bendigo Strathdale Netball Association and their North Central regional squad also claimed a state crown.

Both are members of the Northern Zone netball academy development program and both have been selected to represent Victoria at the School Sport Australia national netball carnival in Melbourne in July.

With just 12 girls from across the entire state making the team, it was remarkable to have two from the same school.

"We've had a pretty good little run over the years," admits Meg with a smile, but without any hint of entitlement.

The 15-year-old knows just how hard you have to work to stay at the top of your game, and that success doesn't come without sacrifice.

Meg has already made one tough call about her sporting future - putting a promising basketball career on hold to concentrate on netball.

She'd been a Bendigo Braves junior squad member every year since under-12s, represented Victoria Country at the Australian Junior Country Cup this year and was playing Victorian Junior Basketball League until just weeks ago when she decided something had to give.

"It's been really hard," she says. "But I chose netball because I like it more - every time I step onto the court I am happy and I just don't get the same excitement from basketball.

"People have said I can always come back to netball, but if I stayed away too long I don't think I would be at the same level when I returned.

"And I just love netball so much."

Meg began playing netball at St Monica's Primary and her talent was evident back then.

In grade six, she made the SSV 12-and-under state team that went to Darwin for the national carnival - and they came back with the championship trophy.

"That was such a great experience," she says.

"Darwin was pretty hot, but it was amazing and is probably my favourite netball memory.

"It was really cool to play at that level.

"I made so many friends and four of the girls from that team are also in our 15-and-under Victorian team this year."

Both Meg and Imogen have been part of Sandhurst's netball development program in recent years and in 2014 have stepped up into its 17-and-under BFNL side.

Imogen, also 15, has particularly strong family links to the club.

Her mum Rochelle was a goaler for the Dragons and dad Ben played footy there before he was drafted into the VFL, playing 43 games for Footscray and Carlton.

"My mum has had the biggest influence on my netball career because she coached me all the way through primary school," the former St Francis of the Fields Primary student says.

"That was how I got my basic knowledge of the sport.

"I started in grade three and was a ring player from a young age because of my height."

Meg Williams and Imogen Sexton are looking forward to sharing the experience of playing netball at national level. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

Meg Williams and Imogen Sexton are looking forward to sharing the experience of playing netball at national level. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

Imogen, who stands about 182cm tall, tried out for the Victorian team as a goaler as well as a defender but didn't get an opportunity in attack, so expects to hold the fort in the back court at the national titles.

Like her team-mate, she is also multi-talented in the sporting arena.

She represented Victoria last year at the national junior track and field championships in Perth, competing in triple jump.

The exceptional athlete has won state little athletics medals in triple jump, hurdles and discus, and usually finished in the top five of her events from under-9 right through to under-15s.

She has also medalled in the triple jump and hurdles at SSV athletics finals.

On the football field, Imogen roamed across centre half-back as CCB won the local division inter-school carnival in May and qualified for the regional finals in August.

Meg also comes from very sporty household.

Mum Cath played netball; Dad Greg was a state-level sprinter and also enjoyed footy and tennis; and her three sisters are all active netballers, too.

"Sport is basically our whole life!" she says. 

Her netball role models include Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz and mid-court star Madi Robinson and she would love to one day follow in their footsteps.

"I follow them on Instagram, so I see what they are up to and what they get to do by playing netball - and it just all looks like so much fun.

"I'd really like to play in the Victorian Netball League next year, but my dream is to play for the Vixens or in the ANZ Championships."

The girls are also inspired by one of CCB's recent alumni: defender Chloe Watson, who has gone on to make Australian 19-under and 21-under squads since graduating from the college.

"Chloe is a big influence on both of us because she has done what we are doing and we are on the same pathway," says Meg.

Chloe (Watson) is a big influence on both of us because she has done what we are doing and we are on the same pathway. - Meg Williams

"She played for CCB and Sandhurst and was in many of the same rep teams as us."

Watson now plays VNL in Melbourne for City West Falcons and is a member of the Victorian Flames team in Australian Netball League.

She has regularly represented her state and earned national honours several times.

As well as their Victorian duties, Meg and Imogen have a busy schedule on the local front.

They are part of the BFNL 17-and-under representative squad that won the northern zone association championship and qualified for the state final at the end of June.

Having been together in every team since starting secondary school, they look forward to also sharing the experience of playing at the national schools carnival from July 20-26.

"It's going to be so much fun doing it with Immi because we look for each other on the court," Meg says.

"So it will be really nice playing with her."

TEAM-MATES: CCB students Meg Williams and Imogen Sexton have played netball in the same school, club and rep teams and are now in a Victorian squad together. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

TEAM-MATES: CCB students Meg Williams and Imogen Sexton have played netball in the same school, club and rep teams and are now in a Victorian squad together. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

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