A SUTHERLAND netball star will be packing her bags next month and boarding a plane for Southern Africa.
Twenty-year-old Bethany Suther-land is heading to Botswana for the World Youth Netball Championships where she will be competing with the Scotland under-21 squad.
The event is taking place from July 2-18 in the Botswanian capital, Gaborone – it is the first time the International Netball Federation (INF) has held an event on the African continent.
However, it will not be a new experience for Bethany who was in the Scottish team for the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships at Glasgow.
A former Golspie High School pupil, Bethany has just finished her second year as a sports studies student at Hertfordshire University. She headed south for both the sporting and educational opportunities and has certainly made the most of them.
She said: “I absolutely love it down there and have had so many amazing experiences in my two years.”
In her first year at university, she played with Hertfordshire Mavericks but this year moved to another franchise, Surrey Storm. The teams are part of the Vitality Netball Superleague – the biggest league for netball in the UK.
The league, which runs from February to June, features 10 teams from across England, Wales and Scotland.
It is regularly shown on TV through the sports broadcaster Sky Sports, thanks to a major television deal signed in 2006. Vitality are the official title sponsor of the competition.
The league includes players from around the world including Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, England, Grenada, Uganda, South Africa, Wales, Jamaica and Scotland.
Bethany, who plays wing defence and goal defence, has also become a Gilbert netball ambassador – Gilbert is a leading supplier of netball products. As an ambassador, she has designed her own netball.
With the end of the 2016/17 university year, Bethany is currently at home in Golspie spending some time with her family prior to her African trip.
Dad John, a carpenter/joiner and mum Pat, a peripatetic PE teacher live at Old Bank Road, next door to Bethany’s grandfather, James Sutherland.
She said: “I’m back home now so I get to catch up with all my family and friends up here as I don’t get to see them often.”
It was Pat, herself a former England internationalist, who introduced Bethany to netball in 2010.
Mother and daughter attended a Dingwall netball club and played in the Highland Netball League.
Since then Bethany’s rise to prominence in the field has been swift.
Her initial break came in October, 2011, when her talents were spotted by selectors from Netball Scotland who had been invited to attend a Highland League tournament at Gordonstoun with a view to giving advice about progressing the league.
She was invited to Glasgow to train with the under-17 Scotland squad. She was selected for the squad and later fast tracked to the under-21 team. Since then she has played at a national and international level.
Her achievements have been recognised locally – in 2013 she was presented with a Sports in Excellence Award by Sutherland Sports Council.
Mum Pat said she was very proud of her daughter’s success and hoped her example would inspire others, particularly those from more remote areas, to make the most of their abilities.