A proud Kamilaroi woman with strong family ties with Moree is leading the way in a ground-breaking initiative aimed at raising the profile of netball and pathways for Indigenous players, particularly in regional areas.
Alison Tucker-Munro is the newly appointed head coach of the GWS Giants Netball Academy. Tucker-Munro's mother, Helen Roberts, was born and lived at Moree's Top Camp, with Ali connected to the Robert, Wright and Swan mob locally.
This Sunday (June 6) as part of the Suncorp Super Netball Indigenous Round the GWS Giants is hosting cross-town rivals the Sydney Swifts.
As part of the program a Netball NSW Indigenous All-Stars team has been selected to take on the GWS Giants Netball Academy in an inaugural curtain raiser to the big game. This initiative was led by Tucker-Munro and her colleagues to celebrate the Indigenous Round.
"This initiative is something I have wanted to do for some time now," Tucker-Munro said. "And like most innovative ideas, the creation of this Indigenous All-stars team relied on people with a strong sense of purpose and shared commitment," she said.
Tucker-Munro is a former National League player and is dedicated to helping netball grow on and off the court.
"The concept of this team is built around me knowing the importance of identifying, acknowledging and celebrating highly talented Indigenous NSW netballers - particularly those that are emerging high performance pathway athletes, as well as experienced mature aged athletes currently in the high-performance space.
"It's no secret that our sport has a vast amount of work to do to nurture and foster an environment that will support the emergence of our next Indigenous Australian Diamond.
"I know first-hand that being in the elite pathways is tough. Therefore, the team is an important vehicle by which these Indigenous athletes can know that 'we see you, we acknowledge you and we celebrate you'.
"This team also provides a platform to raise the profile of our Indigenous athletes. It positions them as emerging role models and fosters an environment where cultural connections can be built with their teammates in a culturally safe space.
"Lastly, the Indigenous All-Stars team becomes a team that other young First Nations girls can aspire to be selected in as they look to start their performance journey - Be it trialling at their local Regional Academy, NSW State teams or playing in the state's pre-eminent competition, the Origin Energy Premier League."
Tucker-Munro already has visions for what this team and opportunity could further develop in to.
"I'd love this model to be replicated within each state and territory nationally," she said. "I'd then be delighted to have a national First Nations team selected to compete at the Australian National Championships."
Ali Tucker-Munro on The Netty Life Podcast in 2020.
Tucker-Munro said there were projects in the pipeline with trials by invitation being held last month. "I'm passionate about regional kids being given the same opportunities as their city cousins so we'd definitely like to go out to regional centres, out to places like where my mob are, and hold carnivals and selections," she said.
"I'm all for raising the profile of Aboriginal athletes and those communities are always in the back of my mind. I always have an eye and ear to the ground."
Tucker-Munro said she was delighted to be given the opportunity to lead the group after stepping up to the top job in March.
Ans she is no stranger to the elite environment, having played over 100 games for the Hunter Jaegers and Sydney Sandpipers, as well as representing Australia at the Netball World Youth Cup. She was also a member of the Australian Diamonds Squad in 2002.
The mum of four boys will be kept busy this season, also being part of the coaching panel for the Netball NSW State Under-19s side.
Tucker-Munro will step aside from her normal position of Academy coach to coach the Indigenous All-Stars for this weekend's curtain raiser match.
"I'm honoured to be able to be a part of this inaugural team. It means a lot to me from both a cultural and community perspective," she said.
"It's a way in which I can support, nurture, connect with, and empower the current crop of elite Indigenous athletes as they navigate and participate in NSW's performance programs."
The match between the Indigenous All-Stars and Giants Netball Academy will begin at 11.15am on Sunday before the Giants take on the Swifts in the much-anticipated NSW Derby in round six of Suncorp Super Netball.
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