Laura Geitz wants country girls to aim high
NETBALL: Laura Geitz believes she will forever be in debt to the sport of netball.
The game gave her the platform to transform from a "really shy, uncertain girl" into a household name and she now stands tall as one of the greatest players Australia has ever produced.
The 30-year-old retired from the international arena in July having done it all, with two Netball World Cups to her name, but she remains an important figure for the Queensland Firebirds.
One way Geitz gives back is by passing on her experience and knowledge of the game to the next generation of stars on the court.
Alongside long-time Australia and Queensland team mate Clare Ferguson (nee McMeniman) and Firebirds centre Mahalia Cassidy, she ran the All Stars Netball Clinic in Gatton last week.
"It's a small way of giving back a little bit to the netball community that's given me so much," Geitz said.
"I've played the game for a long time and at a professional level over 10 years and I think each year rolls into the next but you've just got to go back and visit where it all started for you," she said.
The clinic travels around Queensland through schools and netball associations with the aim of giving young players exposure to high performance coaching in a more intimate setting.
Close to 30 girls got the opportunity to choose which area of the court they wanted to focus on.
Ferguson, who was recently appointed as a specialist coach for the Diamonds, took shooting, young gun Cassidy led the mid-court and Geitz coached defenders.
"We take them through similar sessions to what we basically do when we're training," Geitz said.
"We just give the girls a bit of a taste of training at that high level.
"It's smaller numbers so it's probably more intense, more one-on-one coaching."
Bringing top level players into regional areas was of particular importance for Geitz, who grew up in Allora on the Darling Downs.
"This is where a lot of the talent lies," she said.
"We've run these clinics in Toowoomba, we've been in Warwick this year. We go outside of Brisbane, to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast."
The event at Lockyer District High School reunited her with a special figure in her own development as a young player.
The school's deputy principal Meg Englart was credited by Geitz as the coach who first "discovered" her.
Englart coached her to two premierships with the Darling Downs while she was playing for the U15 and U17 representative sides.
"I'm astounded at how she's developed from a really quiet, reserved person in your team that you don't see to becoming the best that Australia really has," Englart said.
"She's just an amazing player.
"She didn't have the skills that you needed but she had the attitude and the drive and fabulous support from her parents and that's what makes a good sports person."
Englart was very thankful the clinic was held in the region.
"There are large numbers that do extremely well from small country towns, you don't have to go to the city to be amazing," she said.
"The Firebirds have got plenty of other players that are country girls as well.
"It is a pathway to the top."
Geitz said the most important aspect for any young player wanting to follow in her footsteps was to enjoy the journey.
"Professional sport is tough, there are challenges, but there are also some incredible things that you can experience and at the end of the day you've got to love what you're doing," she said.
"I think that's how I got into netball, I just loved the game and I loved playing in a team.
"For the girls that want to progress, my advice is make sure you're enjoying it because your love for the game will be what gets you through the challenges and the tough times."