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Netball in North Wales keeps closing the gap on the South

Coach Heidi Bakewell (back row – third from right) and Wales international Gwenan Williams (to Heidi’s immediate right) with the championship-winning Pwllheli side

North Wales is closing the gap on the South in the sport of netball, says a top coach.

Heidi Bakewell is thrilled about the continual progression of the game in the north.

She told Grassroots North Wales: “I began coaching back in 2012 when Bernie Conneely came over from Dolgellau to help us set up Pwllheli Netball Club.

“Since then, and being encouraged by some of the other great coaches North West Wales has to offer – the likes of Merle Hamilton and Lucy Moran – I am currently undertaking my UKCC level 3 coaching award.

Bernie Conneely (centre)

“Over the years I have coached Pwllheli, Colwyn Bay, Rydal, all the age groups for the LA hubs, development centres, performance centres which have recently turned into the talent centres.

“The development in netball in the North West has been significant over the last few years and as a coach is really exciting to see.

“The gap between North Wales and South Wales was significant and the girls got absolutely thrashed each tournament. As a coach, though, we couldn’t have been prouder of the girls as they never got disheartened and left their all on the court.

“Due to the development of local clubs in North West and development of coaches and umpires thanks to Community Chest grants the gap between the North and South is slowly closing.”

Heidi is delighted at the quality of young player emerging in the north.

“There is nothing better for a coach than seeing a new player with such a passion for the game. I had a young player like this in one of our under 11 teams Cassie Ogilvy. I remember taking Cassie to watch one of the league matches in Penygroes. She went from sitting on the bench to the floor to right up to the sideline never taking her eyes off the game you would have thought it was a world cup final she was watching.

“Since that game she has barely missed a practice and trains outside of training, has been selected for county teams then the talent centre.

“The growth in young teams in the league has significantly shot up and the level of talent is just increasing all the time.

Lottie Pleasant of Llangefni and Thunderkittens

We have amazing up and coming players like Lottie Pleasant, Abbie Parkinson, Cassie Ogilvy, Elin Salter, Mared Roberts, Molly Chisholm, Freya Evans, Jess Hughes, Martha Hughes, Ffion Gittins, Georgia Holmes, Alys Lees, Bethan Lees…too many to mention at the minute and with standard continually rising I’m certainly getting excited about the future of netball in the North West.”

Heidi continued: “One of the best things about being a coach in the North West is not are there only very dedicated coaches such as Anya Jones, Alison Williams and Bernie, but we also have very dedicated school teachers who are also working hard to raise the bar which makes our job as coaches so much easier.

A typically bubbly Anya Jones at one of her coaching sessions (front – purple)

“One of the North West great success stories is our Gwenan Williams, who spent a good few years within the Welsh netball system finally getting selected to represent Wales.

“Me and a couple of the other players Cerys Davies and Cerys Jones flew out to Belfast to see her play her first match and receive her first cap. Gwenan was selected to captain the Welsh squad but unfortunately suffered with an ACL so is in recovery at the minute.

Gwenan (GS) in last year’s senior county team

“Gwenan has come through numerous coaches and a very good school teacher on her journey and supported heavily by her amazing parents.
“As a coach I’m also very proud of those players that myself, other coaches or school teachers have invested in then give back to the younger netball community.

“To me that shows me not just how passionate they are about the sport but how much they appreciate the time they have been given and want to help develop our sport further.”

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