THE region’s best young athletes will put their training to the test this weekend in Wollongong at the Clubs NSW Academy Games.
Northern Inland Academy of Sport are sending 64 athletes and 10 coaches to compete in hockey, netball and golf at the games hosted by the Illawarra Academy.
The squads have been in training for the games since they were selected in November last year.
NIAS will have a boys’ and girls’ hockey contingent with both teams keen to get on the field at Unanderra Stadium after all games were washed out last year.
The hockey sides have had several training sessions over the past few months, as well as practice games against the Hunter Academy and a team from UTS.
Boys’ coach Sam Lobsey said the team was more than ready for the games.
“We have been training really well lately and have the structures and most positions settled,” Lobsey said. “We finally got our defence sorted in the last few sessions and have plenty of dangerous goal scorers.”
“We should do well if everyone performs to their capabilities.”
The girls’ hockey side will kick off their games at 10.30am against Southern, with the boys playing the same academy at 11.30am.
The netball team, under NIAS Coach of the Year Kirstie Fuller will be looking to rattle the cage of the typically stronger city academies.
“It is a great developmental experience for us,” Fuller said.
“We have a very strong and versatile attack this year and a completely new defence so anything could happen.”
The girls won two games last year and have targeted South East and Far West Academies as the teams they can match it with.
“We have also set a goal of staying in or beating the bigger academies for at least the first half,” Fuller said.
The girls will at Wollongong University and will play Central Coast in their first game. The golfers will miss 2013 NIAS Sport person of the year Nathan Mann, but are going with a strong squad.
The team will play at Links Shell Cove and Kiama Golf Clubs over the two days.
NIAS director Di Hallam is excited to go to the games for the first time since taking the reins last year.
“It is also a great social opportunity for the athletes as well as the sport,” Hallam said.
“I think we will do quite well.”
The games are run by Clubs NSW and the NIAS team is sponsored by the South Tamworth Bowling Club