BENDIGO netballer Will Whiteacre's first national championships appearance was something he won't forget in a hurry.
A whirlwind week in Adelaide late last month ended with the 13-year-old and his Victorian 17-and-under team-mates winning Australian Men's and Mixed Netball Association National Championships gold with a convincing 60-43 grand final victory over Southern Dragons.
But there was even better to come for Whiteacre, who plays locally with South Bendigo in section one of the Bendigo Strathdale Netball Association competition, on Friday nights.
The gifted and fast-developing wing attack was chosen as a training partner for the Australian 17-and-under squad.
It's another huge honour for Whiteacre, whose earliest exposure to netball came as a spectator watching his sisters Harriett and Milana play in the Golden City Netball Association.
From there, it wasn't long before he was joining in as a player, making a quick, if not, instant impact.
He was first chosen in the Victorian squad as a training partner in 2020 at age 12 and was rapt to be part of the team in Adelaide following months of training beforehand in Melbourne.
A 17-goal grand final triumph was a fitting end to the Victorians' campaign after they went through the tournament undefeated, with an average winning margin of 40-goals.
Included was a 62-23 semi-final win over Queensland Regional.
Playing in his first national championships, Whiteacre was easily the youngest in his team, with the bulk of his team-mates 15 or 16 and even a couple of 17-year-olds.
"It wasn't too overwhelming and I wasn't really nervous either," he said about the experience.
"I was just there to play netball and concentrated on that each day. It's not a bad thing to be able to do every day.
"I'm pretty happy with how I performed. I played the majority of my time on the court at wing attack - I knew I was going to play that (position).
"I got at least half the game on court every game, so I'm happy with how it all went."
Whiteacre's selection as one of six training partners in the national squad was announced to great cheers at the championships dinner.
"I didn't expect much, but it's pretty exciting that I was picked," he said.
"I haven't got any details about it yet, but there is a training camp in Canberra sometime next holidays and then the team goes to New Zealand, but I'm not sure if training partners will be going."
Whiteacre, the only male player playing BSNA section one, will have plenty more netball on his plate later this year, when he lines up in the state junior men's league the down in Melbourne.
After playing under-15s last season, this year he will step up to under-18s.
He is continuing to train with the AFL Central Victoria Netball Academy and already has is sights on gaining Victorian selection for a second national championships, which will next year be staged in Perth.
Whiteacre - a student at Catherine McAuley College's Junortoun campus - said he was grateful for the support of his family, especially his parents Sharee and James.
"Mum and dad have been really great, driving me down to Melbourne every week - they couldn't be more supportive," he said.
"As have my sisters."
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