WILL Whiteacre has come a long way in a short time in netball.
The 12-year-old has only been playing for four years, but he is already on the radar of Victorian netball selectors.
Whiteacre, who last Saturday played in a premiership with his Golden City Netball Association team Panthers in the 13-and-under section one competition, has been selected as a training partner for the men's 17-and-under state team.
A testament to his immense talent, the squad is comprised of players at least two years older than him and in most cases four to five years older.
Whiteacre, a grade six student at St Joseph's in Quarry Hill, was chosen as a training partner following his performances at three state squad tryouts and a series of Zoom sessions.
The youngster, who plays multiple positions on the court, but has a preference to play either goal attack or goal shooter, could not be more excited with his selection.
"I was pretty happy being picked at 12 - the next youngest player is 14," Whiteacre said.
"He's been messaging mum to see how I've been going in my games."
"I am really passionate about my netball. Eventually, I'd like to make the state team, not just as a training partner.
"Hopefully one day I can play in the Australian men's team in the men's World Cup."
His status as a training partner means Whiteacre will travel to Melbourne most Sunday's over the next few months for state training.
Whiteacre credits his netball-loving family for his immense passion for the sport and his sisters Harriett and Milana for the circumstances behind his becoming a player.
"I kept coming to the games when my sisters played and one day Harriet's coach asked if was okay to play in a tournament and I said yes, and then it just took off from there," he said.
"I think I was a bit nervous initially, but once I got out there it felt like I knew what I was doing.
"The coach seemed pretty happy with me, so after that, I thought I wouldn't mind playing all the time.
"After the season finished there was a twilight season and I ended up playing that and then I played the next season for St Joseph's in grade four and then last year I went to the South Bendigo Football Netball Club."
It was at a clinic run by VNL club Southern Saints that Whiteacre came to the attention of their coach Greg Heinrich, and facilitated his move to South Bendigo and a spot in their under-13 B team.
Before COVID hit, he was earmarked for a spot in the Bloods' 17-and-under section 2A team in the Bendigo Strathdale Netball Association competition.
Whiteacre has a ready-made mentor following a chance meeting at the Golden City courts three weeks ago with long-time Victorian men's representative and Kangaroo Flat A-grade coach Jayden Cowling.
"We met when he was here with the (Melbourne) Vixens premiership trophy and he asked me how I've been going and if I'd like to do a few training sessions together," he said.
Whiteacre is a member of the AFL Central Victoria academy program.
His Panthers' premiership-winning team included a mix of South Bendigo and Golden Square netballers and went undefeated during the abbreviated GCNA season.
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