North Ballarat netballer Poppy Douglass has returned to Ballarat at the top of her age group after competing at an Australian representative camp in Canberra.
The 16-year-old was one of 30 elite netballers from across the country hand-picked for the camp which was held at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Her selection follows the Australian National Championships where she impressed selectors as a member of the Victorian state team.
"It's an amazing environment to be a part of," Douglass told The Courier.
"It was great to get to know all the other players and learning about their netball backgrounds. It was intense but I loved every bit of it."
The selection came as a big surprise for Douglass who wasn't initially part of the squad selected to travel to Canberra.
As a bottom-aged player at nationals, Douglass was just happy to be in uniform.
But Douglass played well.
And when a spot opened up at the camp she soon found herself getting a phone call she never thought she'd receive.
"Last Tuesday I got a call from the Netball Australia Centre of Excellence saying there had been an injury and I was next on the list," she said.
I've always dreamed about it, but going to the camp made it more of a reality.Poppy Douglass
"I was completely and utterly shocked. When I heard the news I was overwhelmed, it was amazing."
Held across five days, the squad trained twice a day under the Institute's top coaches.
They also heard from Australian Diamonds netballer Kelsey Browne about the sacrifices and preparation it takes to succeed at the highest level.
"The coaches kept repeating the message that this was the start of the pathway to the Australian Diamonds team," Douglass said.
"I learned a lot about the attitude you've got to have towards being an elite netballer.
The camp brought an end to Douglass's Australian National Championships campaign, but she may find herself back at the Australian Institute of Sport before long.
As a bottom-aged player, Douglass still has another year left to play in the under-17 age group.
And if her form holds up, she may find herself back in the squad next year which she said was being groomed for the Youth Netball World Cup in 2021.
"The coaches said that this was the up-and-coming age group for the world cup team, and this was an opportunity to show them what we could do," Douglass said.
Douglass will now return to play A-grade for North Ballarat in the Ballarat Football Netball League.
She believes her Australian camp experience will boost her confidence for her local team which sits third on the ladder.
Douglass hoped to one day play for Australia.
"I've always thought that it's so far away, but over this week coaches kept reinforcing that we're here now because we are the future," she said.