No matter how hard you tried, there’s not much chance you’d have been able to wipe the smile off NSW Swifts superstar Paige Hadley’s face after Thursday’s visit to Orange’s Sir Neville Howse Stadium.
After a trip to Dubbo on Thursday morning Hadley and the rest of the NSW squad landed in Orange as part of the Swifts’ regional tour, putting the city’s burgeoning stars through their paces in a couple of clinics before signing a plethora of autographs, taking countless photos and selfies and meeting their adoring fans.
The 25-year-old, fresh from helping Australia to third at last month’s Fast5 World Series, was an undeniable fan favourite too.
She was mobbed, basically. She loved it though.
“It is just so exciting, we’ve never had this many kids turn up to see us,” she smiled.
“It was so much fun, it was about interacting with the kids and fans and having some fun.”
Hadley and her Swifts teammates led a general clinic in the early afternoon before a meet-and-greet, then took Orange Netball Association’s representative teams through a higher intensity session in the evening.
“I had the really little girls (in the first clinic) and they’re just so cute, they had their big bows in their hair and everything. I just loved them,” Hadley beamed.
“We had a few different groups going, just doing some spatial awareness stuff, some shooting, some teamwork stuff and a lot of fun activities.
“Then we took the rep girls through so more high intensity stuff.”
Having grown up in Sydney, Hadley said she had access to high-quality coaches as a youngster – not that she used it, as she explained – but lauded the Swifts and Netball NSW for making a positive move to grant that kind of mentoring to regional players.
“There was clinics like this when I was younger, but I was always too nervous to go,” she laughed.
“Mum tried to make me but I never would, I was just too nervous.
“And if I did go I’d just hang in the back being really shy.
“That’s part of the reason why I love this kind of thing so much now, these kids just embrace you and they’re not shy at all, it’s great.
“And we don’t get to see these kids every day, so it’s really cool to come out and meet them and see that they love netball so much.
“Being able to come out here is just so great, and we want to show these players that you can make it to the Swifts, or Australia, from anywhere, you just need to believe in yourself.