Black Swans soar to Emerging Athlete of the Month nomination


Image credit: Netball Australia


By Josh Squire

The Black Swans have soared in the spotlight of the Pacific Netball Series, with the inaugural First Nations team announced as Commonwealth Games Australia’s Emerging Athletes of the Month for May.

The 12-woman squad, which was formally announced in mid-April, were named the Black Swans after the uniquely Australian species, with the moniker chosen to reflect the native animal’s connection to the land, and their grace, dignity, and loyalty, set to mirror the essence of the selected athletes.

Coming together to join five other teams from across the world for the series in Brisbane, the formation of the squad was one that aimed to provide equitable and accelerated opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander netballers.

Head coach and proud Kamilaroi woman Ali Tucker-Munro was part of the selection panel and had the honour of letting each girl know that they were part of the team.

Ewamian woman Brook Lacey was one of those that received a call.

Having just finished competing in the National Netball Championships for Queensland – taking home silver behind champions New South Wales – Lacey was left a bit confused about why Tucker-Munro was calling straight after her under-19s tournament.

“It was a bit of a shock because it was a random Wednesday after nationals. I was like ‘I can’t be getting the call for Nationals yet’,” Lacey recalled.

“But Ali said, ‘come join this team’ and I was like ‘oh, deadly’.”

Joining 11 other girls from different mobs on the Friday before the competition started, Lacey and her newfound teammates didn’t have much time to get to know each other, let alone prepare to take on three-time defending champions the Tonga Tala.

Putting up a competitive showing, the Black Swans went down 62-50 in their first game, but this proved to be the only game they needed to gel perfectly – what the girls produced for the remaining four games of the round robin stage was scintillating.

Team Liaison Beryl Friday, a Nyungkul woman, even gave the chemistry that the team had together a name; Mob Magic.

After getting on the board with a win against Singapore, the Black Swans faced the undefeated Fijian squad and were able to seal a 13-goal victory.

Scraping together another win in a low scoring affair against Namibia meant the team entered the final game of the group stage on a three-match winning streak.



Playing Samoa, the team got off to another quick start, but the Tifa Moana’s fight kept it to just a three-goal game at the half. Making a few changes at the break seemed to flip a switch and it became a Black Swan avalanche for the final two quarters, with the final scoreline of 59-32 final showing a comprehensive victory.

“It’s been a great honour for me to represent my mob,” Lacey, who came onto court to secure the win in the fourth quarter, said.

“We literally met on Friday. The connection’s been really good, I’ve never met any of these girls, [but] it’s been fantastic.”

While the unfamiliarity with each other allowed them to play with flare and intuition, it also certainly helped their connection to have a pair of sisters playing in the team with the Jauncey’s (Jamaica and Scarlet, Yaruwu) and Molo’s (Jayden and Tia, Wunyi) seeing plenty of court time throughout.

Despite collecting four wins from five games and finishing top of the table, the Black Swans, without a World Netball classification, were relegated to the 5th v 6th playoff game to take on Singapore in a final opportunity to play as a team.

Despite Singapore taking the win, Holland, who captained the team, was glowing of the whole experience, embracing the chance to inspire the next generation, and considering her selection a career highlight.

“We talk about ‘you gotta see it to be it’ and I think that’s really prevalent in our mob and hopefully we can be the vision that these girls look up to and strive to be one day,” she said.

“It would be hard to go past being selected into this team. Playing for clubs’ teams and getting the opportunity to represent at state level, I think nothing surpasses getting to represent your culture,” she said.

Assistant Coach Vanessa Dempsey also recognised the role that visibility has within the community to show that there is a critical place in netball for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“If we don’t keep pushing these initiatives and getting us into the pathway, then unfortunately our mob is going to disconnect from netball,” the Ngarrindjeri, Narungga and Jingili woman said.

“To be able to coach young Aboriginal and Indigenous athletes and see them respond to our environment that we create [has been my proudest moment],” she said.

“It’s about them. As a coach that’s what we push for, but I think it’s just about seeing the girls with smiles on their faces and achieving things.”

The Commonwealth Games serves as a platform for developing the future stars of Australian sport and the Emerging Athlete of the Year forms part of a refreshed Awards and Honours program developed by the CGA Heritage and Awards Committee.

The CGA Emerging Athlete of the Year Award celebrates the next generation of Australian sport stars and those that may make an impact for Australia at major sport events in the future.

Over the course of 2024, an athlete will be recognised each month as the Emerging Athlete of the Month.

Inaugural First Nations Black Swans netball squad:

  • Olivia Clark (Kamilaroi)
  • Lily Cubby (Murrawari)
  • Kiera Heffernan (Pintupi-Luritja/Arrente)
  • Tegan Holland (Kamilaroi)
  • Jamaica Jauncey (Yaruwu)
  • Scarlet Jauncey (Yaruwu)
  • Courtney Jones (Biripi)
  • Brooke Lacey (Ewamian)
  • Jayden Molo (Wunyi)
  • Tia Molo (Wunyi)
  • Charlotte Ryan (Dharawal)
  • Aaleya Turner (Kaurna)




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