Kington student Ellie carries Herefordshire's hopes after England netball call-up (From Hereford Times)
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Kington student Ellie carries Herefordshire's hopes after England netball call-up
AT just 15, Ellie Smith has the netball world at her feet.
The Staunton-on-Arrow teenager has completed her first season in the Westside team which play in Division Two of the West Midlands Regional Netball League with her contribution helping to earn her a place in the England under-17 set-up.
And now an England training camp has allowed her to see just how much work is yet to come to make it to the top level.
“At the England camp, we had to do loads of fitness stuff, sprinting and core sessions,” she said. “It was four days from eight in the morning to six at night with all the different sessions.
“We were given programmes to do as well, homework because it’s off-season effectively now.”
Although she is now expected to put in 15 hours of training in her own time, Ellie has been used to taking hard work in her stride to get to the top of her sport.
“I have to do lots of weights and lots of core-strength work,” she said.
“There is also lots of endurance work like running and cycling. That is not organised for me, I have to do that myself.
“I have done that since the age of about 12.
“I play as goal attack and goal shooter.
“To be a good shooter you need to get a 90 per cent average so you can’t just turn up at training.
“You have to put your shots up at home on a very regular basis. I do half-an-hour every day.”
Ellie, who comes from farming stock, is bucking the sporting trend in her family.
“There is a tradition of sport in the family but not netball,” she said.
“Most of my family are hockey players — my mum, my gran and my great-gran all played county hockey while my brother Joe played for Hereford.”
But it’s been netball all the way for Ellie ever since her first experience of the sport at primary school in Pembridge.
“My teacher Mrs Biddle was very keen and encouraged me to play,” she said.
“When I was at primary school, Leominster Netball Club started up and so I played there from the age of seven.
“I was picked up by the Powys County set-up, too, so from quite an early age I was playing twice a week. I also played for the Powys Dodgers “When I moved on to Lady Hawkins’ School, I continued to play there and was captain of the school team.
“There has not been a great tradition of netball at Lady Hawkins but our year had a particularly good team and we are still the county champions at our age-group.
“I trialled for Herefordshire at Year Eight and was selected.”
The county side links with Westside, the county’s only regional standard club and so Ellie began to play at regional level at the under-14 age-group.
This year she has been the regional player-of-the-year at under-16 level, nominated by opposition teams.
But it has been moving up to senior level with Westside which has opened up new possibilities.
“I started playing for the Westside senior side last November and playing for Westside at regional level has really brought my play on,” she said.
“I was playing well in matches and performed quite well.
“The coaches selected five girls from the regional academy to go on to England trials in Loughborough and I was the only one picked from the West Midlands region.
“It’s quite a thrill to be picked and my family are very proud.
“I’m very grateful to my mother Catherine. She has driven me everywhere — Loughborough, Sheffield, Walsall, Bath.”
Now, the focus will be further training weekends and camps with the ultimate aim being the European championships early next year.
Ellie’s hard work and dedication to her sport has won her the admiration of her club-mates who are willing her on to further success.
“Ellie is a very popular player and the whole club is thrilled that she is doing so well,” said Westside head coach and Herefordshire netball chairman Helen Bowden.
“Wherever there was netball, Ellie played. Where there was any opportunity to play netball, she found it.
“I think that Ellie could go all the way.
“She has the potential, the focus and the drive and determination. She really wants it and has the physique and the athleticism. She is very strong, has a very strong core and good balance.
“She just needs to work on her thinking on the game and the defensive side of her game.
“If she keeps developing in the way she has this year then she could be an England player.”