Not many 15-year-olds can claim to be champions of the world. But it’s a title that sits comfortably on the head of Swanwick girl Laura Bailey after her amazing exploits in netball.
Laura only took up nets, which is a new, fast and furious form of indoor netball, in March. But she has just returned home from Australia, where she helped the England U18 ladies’ team to a gold medal at the World Indoor Netball Championships.
“It was a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Laura, who is a year-11 student at the Ecclesbourne School in Duffield.
“I will remember the whole trip for the rest of my life. It was brilliant being able to mix with girls from other countries and cultures.
“Now I would love to go on and represent England at traditional netball one day.”
Laura’s achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that she was the youngest girl in the whole of the two-week tournament, held in Brisbane. Her teammates and girls from teams representing opponents Australia, South Africa and New Zealand were all at least one and, in some cases, three school years above her.
Proud dad Nigel, who is an assistant head teacher, said: “She refused to be intimidated by the older girls she was competing against. This was highlighted when she was described as being feisty by the commentator during one of the matches.
“We’re just so proud of her. We are a sporty family, but this has been amazing.”
England had four teams in different age-groups at the tournament, but the U18 ladies were the only one to reach a final. In their pool matches, they recorded four wins and two defeats, beating Australia three times, 43-33, 45-39 and 40-39, and South Africa once, 62-47, and losing twice to South Africa, 42-35 and 50-46. They then faced South Africa again in the final, battling to a narrow 51-47 victory.
Laura, who plays for Southgate Netball Club, took an immediate liking to nets, which is played in high-tension netted courts so the ball never goes out of play. She caught the eye of England selectors at trials and took on an intense training schedule in preparation for Brisbane. What’s more, she set up her own fundraising initiatives to help cover the £3,000 cost of the trip.
Mind you, Laura is no stranger to sporting success. For she is also an accomplished cross-country runner, swimmer and footballer. Her 18-year-old sister, Claire, is a fine netball player too, as was her mum Lynne, a PE teacher at Ecclesbourne, in her younger days.
Next on Laura junior’s agenda is catching up on all the GCSE work she missed while she was Down Under. But it won’t be long before she’s back in the sporting arena!