a remarkable first season of netball culminated in Jelly Babies taking top spot in Portsmouth League division five – not bad for a team whose average age is 12.
Jelly Netball Club coach Julie Osborne explained how a junior club – yet to celebrate their first anniversary – have won everything there is to win on the local junior scene, gone further afield for fresh challenges and won an adult-dominated competition.
She said: ‘It is important to keep reminding myself just how young they all are!
‘We entered into the Portsmouth League, an adult league, but the players needed the challenge.
‘They ended up as winners, as well as boasting the best defensive record in the division. My circle defenders are only 14 years old and the average age of the team is 12!’
Playing against more experienced players has been a huge learning curve for Jelly netballers.
They were beaten by rivals Oceans 7 in one of the first games of the season, but by the second battle Jellies had learnt from their mistakes and won the corresponding fixture.
In their match against Red Admirals, young shooters Sophie Allen and Emily Cheshire were on fire and scored 53 goals – the highest score in the division during the summer season.
Osborne added: ‘By far, our most improved player is Georgia Palmer-Goddard. She had the game of her life in our last match against Cocktails.
‘We had to win the game to top the division so the pressure was on. At the age of 12, she played far beyond her years.
‘At the same age, the youngest members have really stepped up to adult league netball – Issy Stancliffe, Dominique Warren, Caitlin Hoddle, Holly Baker, Emma Dorricott, Meg Dennis and Alice Cheshire.’
The under-12 and under-14 sides also won all their games in the Portsmouth Junior Netball League.
Osborne continued: ‘The under-12s team was made up from some Under-12s, a few under-11s and an under-10 player.
‘Issy Stancliffe was nominated as player of the season for the under-12s, not only by her peers, but also by the opposition teams.
‘It’s important at this age, no matter what level they play at, that they enjoy their netball, and sportsmanship is encouraged.
‘I asked all opposition teams to nominate their best and fairest player each game and that player received a medal.
‘The under-14 squad was again made up by some girls of the correct age, but the majority of the team were under-13s and under-12s.’
At the recent Shooting Stars tournament, Jelly under-13s finished in the runners-up spot.
A team predominantly made up of under-12s participated with Ashleigh Dekker, Kira Walker and Alice Cheshire, showing their talent against their older opponents.
Add to these successes the semi-final finishes at Pontins Brean Sands for Jellies under-11s and under-13s, and you can see why the club had plenty to celebrate at its recent presentation evening.
Osborne said: ‘Congratulations to those girls who won individual awards. The coaches’ trophies went to Alex Pugh (Year 5/6), Domi Warren (Year 7), Sophie Allen (Year 8) and Lily Wardale (Year 9).
‘The players’ player trophies were presented to Issy Stancliffe (under-12 Junior League) Jess Stancliffe (under-14 Junior League) and Lily Wardale (adult league).
‘Sisters Jess and Issy Stancliffe also jointly won the overall club player of the year, much to the delight of Mum Helen, who has been a fantastic supporter this year.
‘We’re looking forward to the upcoming season. We’ve entered three teams into the Portsmouth Junior League and have given the girls the challenge of playing above their age groups so they have better competition.
‘It is not possible to enter the adult league again, due to school fixtures clashing and child protection issues relating to the weather during the winter season. But we hope to be back with two teams in next summer’s adult league, though.’