THANKS to a bumper showing for her NSW All Schools side, James Sheahan Catholic High School’s Annie Miller became Orange’s fourth Australian Schoolgirl since the turn of the century, joining a select few who have earned the right to wear green and gold.
Miller starred as NSW claimed silver at last week’s School Sport Australia 15 and Under Championship in Adelaide and earned a place in the Australian squad to contest next year's International Schoolgirls Netball Challenge as a result.
She’s in elite company, only ex-Orange High School trio Sophie Fardell (2006), Dominique Ferguson (2002) and Teigan Colley (2002) have achieved the same feat at the same level in the last 16 years.
James Sheahan alumna Charlotte Jasprizza (2011) also hit the international scene during that period, through a different and now-defunct pathway.
“I didn’t set [national selection] as a goal, NSW All Schools was one though,” Miller smiled, saying she’d gone into the carnival just looking to play well and anything else would be a bonus.
“I thought I did pretty well throughout the week. It was faster than I’m used to, as the games went on I got more comfortable with the speed and how we were playing.”
Miller was phenomenal at centre and wing attack as NSW won six of its seven games in the preliminary stage, defeating Queensland (39-32), Northern Territory (46-24), Western Australia (29-27), Tasmania (36-22), Victoria (31-24) and ACT (42-25) and going down to South Australia (33-35).
NSW avenged that loss in the semi-final though, holding on to trump SA 30-29.
That’s when the sky blues stumbled, producing an underwhelming performance to lose to WA by sevens goals (31-24) in the gold medal match.
“Silver is still good, but it was extremely disappointing to miss out on gold,” Miller lamented.
“We’d beaten them in the round games, we didn’t play our best, it just didn’t go right.”
Miller and her Australian teammates – including NSW’s Ky-Mani Schwenke and Dakota Thomas – will head into training camp later this year before heading to Fiji for the ISNC next May.
Although it’s a long way off, the year 10 student’s set a simple goal for that tournament.
“Hopefully I can just get on the court,” she laughed.
Miller’s mentors – James Sheahan coach Kylie Jordan and Life Studio player-coach Mardi Aplin – lauded the 15-year-old, saying the honour is well deserved.
“She was a standout at the Combined Catholic Colleges trials and then again at the NSW All Schools trials,” Jordan said.
“I knew if she played well she’d be a really good chance, she works very hard. We’re all just so proud of her at James Sheahan it’s a wonderful achievement.”
“I’ve been saying she’s going to be the next big thing to come out of Orange for a while now,” Aplin said.
“She’s got so much ability and is a very coach-able player, she listens and learns very well and wants to get better.
“It’s a great achievement for Annie, it’s amazing.”
The 15-year-old said her Australian selection will “probably” change her focus from basketball to netball in the future.
Proving her all-round ability, Miller toured New Zealand with the Australian Country Cup side earlier this year and just before the netball nationals, she helped her NSW Country under-16 side to fifth at the Basketball Australia National Championship in Victoria.
“I think mum is going to make me choose (between basketball and netball), very soon,” Miller laughed.
“We did okay (in Victoria), we finished fifth. We probably could’ve made the semi-finals but we had a hard pool. It was a pretty good result I think.”
OHS’ Kobe Mansell was in the boys’ corresponding side in Victoria, helping the sky blues finish ninth.
Miller’s immediate focus turns back to Life Studio’s Orange Netball Association Toyota Cup campaign.
After returning from Adelaide on Saturday morning Miller shrugged off any fatigue or weariness to take the court for Life Studio, helping the side thump Toyota Cup contenders Vipers by 16 goals.