There were times when Sam Poolman questioned whether the hard work and sacrifices were worth it.
The towering Newcastle defender made every NSW and Australian junior team between the ages of 16 and 21 and travelled to Sydney several times a week chasing her dream to become a professional netballer.
On Tuesday, the Rankin Park 27-year-old will be named Australian captain for the Fast5 Netball World Series in Melbourne this weekend.
Read more: Sam Poolman back in Diamonds camp
“You don’t get the opportunity every day and it’s something that I will hold on to all week,” Poolman said.
“I wilI do what I normally do but be proud and remind people that everything that you put in puts you into situations like this. A girl from Newcastle captaining Fast5 is pretty awesome.”
The Australian Institute of Sport graduate played four seasons with Adelaide Thunderbirds in the now-defunct trans-Tasman championship before joining the GWS Giants for a breakout season in Super Netball last year.
Her efforts for the Giants earned Poolman a spot in the Australian Fast5 squad for the 2017 world series. The last Newcastle player to make a national squad had been former Sydney Swift and Hunter Jaeger Raegan Jackson in the late 1990s.
But Poolman admitted there were times when she wondered “is it all worth it?”.
“I was thinking, ‘How long can I keep committing like this?’,” she said. “I was working at Rebel Sport to pay for my fuel to get me down to Sydney and back several times a week.
“There’s hard work and sacrifices but it’s pretty awesome now to be playing week in and week out at a professional level, being in a leadership position and playing Fast5.”
The Australian team, which has seven debutantes, are in camp this week preparing for the two-day Fast5 tournament.
It will be contested by the top-six netballing nations in the world, including defending champions England, New Zealand, Malawi, Jamaica and South Africa.
Australia open their quest for an elusive Fast5 title against Malawi on Saturday. Poolman hoped she could be the first captain to lead the nation to success.
“Australia has never won Fast 5 before,” said Poolman, who was a part of the team which won bronze last year.
“Because of the success of the Diamonds, everyone just assumes we won it. We’ve been through to the grand final but never won it, so obviously that’s one of our goals.
“If we can play quite smartly, we’ve definitely got the players to do that and hopefully we can get through to that gold medal match and then to win it would be awesome.”
Fast5 has less players with no wing defence or wing attack. There are shortened quarters, multiple point shots and power plays.
Each match is 24 minutes in duration.