Elite Jets talent standing tall with Firebirds dream
AS the self-confessed "baby of the team'', Charlie Bell is anything but a rookie performer.
The personality-charged Jets goal shooter is one of the most exciting players in the Sapphire Series side, having just retained her spot in Netball Queensland's Elite Development Program (EDP) for a third year.
Aged 18 and 197cm tall, Bell is enjoying every aspect of the specialised coaching and information she's receiving in the EDP, which is a stepping stone to future Queensland Firebirds selection.
While she's yet to gain a call-up the Firebirds national league squad, she has represented Queensland at under-17 and under-19 level and played international teams in past tournaments.
Fresh from the Jets' latest 55-41 win over the Northern Rays in Mackay, Bell is seizing every opportunity in the EDP to learn and pinpoint the higher level skills needed.
"It's heaps of fun,'' she said, seeing younger girls "coming up the ranks'' and adjusting like she did on the valuable representative pathway.
"In my third year, I've gone through the little awkward learn and not really knowing where I sat to now being a bit more confident in my game.
"I just love the program. It's awesome . . . and I enjoy going to all the sessions.''
While benefiting from training and playing in the Sapphire Series, Bell said the ongoing specialised EDP work provided another layer of experience.
"You get people and coaches and support staff really honing in the development of a netball player,'' she said.
"We've had specialist sessions just doing one hour with (head coach) Jenny Brazel, which I find the best in my development because she can really sit down with me and talk through what I need to work on as a player.
"In Sapphire (Series) it would be really team specific whereas in the EDP, they give you the opportunity - even in the gym as well - to really focus on your development.''
A bonus being in the EDP is that Bell's good friend and Jets teammate Bridey Condren has also been a regular, identified four years ago as a player of the future.
The skilful duo played for Brisbane West Lions before joining the inaugural Jets side, which remains in second place after Saturday's victory.
"It was really well done,'' Bell said of the road trip victory.
"I think the girls all fought really hard and we wanted it heaps. I think our execution and some skills just lacked a little bit.''
Being the Jets' only trip north this season provided a change from the team's usual routine. The team flew up Saturday morning and had a break to refresh before the game at Mackay Stadium.
Part-time UQ Health, Sport and Physical Education student Bell didn't mind the travel, being used to juggling multiple roles.
Apart from focusing on her study and netball, she coaches a junior team at her former school and enjoys doing community clinics with the Jets.
That's where the knowledge she's gaining in Netball Queensland's Elite Development Program is also so valuable.
"I love working with people,'' she said, hoping to become a PE teacher or head coach when she's older.
"It definitely helps because as a part of EDP as well, we get access to nutrition, physio, psychologist . . . all that stuff.
"It's really nice to take the information that I get given to my coaching environments when I'm talking to the little girls at the Jets clinics because they look up to us as older players.''
Being with the Jets has helped Bell continue her all-round netball development.
"I love playing with the Jets,'' she said.
"It's so strange though because when I was playing at under 15, when I was really young, my captain of the Jets now Step O'Brien was my coach.
"She's now one of my teammates.
"I'm the baby of team despite being the tallest.
"We're all like one big family.''
In Sunday's Ruby South Series match, the Jets retained third place with a 57-47 win over the Panthers.
State of play
Sapphire Series Rd 10: Jets def Northern Rays 55-41.
Next game: Saturday (5.20pm) v QUT Wildcats at Queensland State Netball Centre.
Ruby South series Rd 10: Jets def Panthers 57-47.
Next game: Saturday (3.30) v QUT Wildcats at Queensland State Netball Centre.