Keep an eye on promising netball player Bianca Solomon, 15, from Woodlands, and a Grade 9 pupil at Portland High.
An all-round sporty person, the young player has been selected to take part in the annual inter-provincial indoor netball championships, in Johannesburg, at the end of the month.
A member of Dolphins Netball Club, she is comfortable anywhere on the court but prefers playing at centre, where she’s able to dictate the pace of the game with her energy, speed, ball handling and distribution skills.
She’s one of a number of players from her club playing on the indoor circuit, over and above the regular netball played at Westridge, but the only one from the area selected to represent the Western Cape Coastal side that will be in action at the nationals.
Introduced to the indoor game by Dolphins junior coach, Jeanne Valentyn, who has known her since 2017, her selection was really a no-brainer for Valentyn.
“She is a defensive player – from wing defence to goal defence – but due to her athleticism, she can play centre as well” he said.
The former soccer coach is one of a few men coaching women’s netball teams affiliated to the Mitchell’s Plain Netball Union and coaches the Dominators indoor side, a junior team with players aged between 14 and 16, out in Montague Gardens.
Valentyn, who has been with Dolphins since 2016, said he switched his attention to netball once his daughters took an interest in the game and that’s how he met Bianca.
As expected, the energetic teenager took to the game like a duck to water and helped her side win the Western Cape senior open indoor netball League 6 this summer.
But she’s not just good at passing the ball, she’s also one of her school’s star athletes who had won this year’s False Bay Zone A section high schools’ athletics competition.
She competed in the girls 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles events in her division and had made it all the way to the Western Province championships, held at Green Point Stadium a fortnight ago.
In fact, it was her athletic prowess that caught the eye of Portland High sports co-ordinator Romano Petersen and an offer of a scholarship to attend the school.
Petersen spotted her at a primary schools’ athletic competition in her final year at Woodville Primary, where she also made a name for herself as a star performer. Upon enquiring which high school she planned to attend, he discovered that she’d not applied to any school and invited her to register at Portland. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I saw that she was good at 100m and 200m sprints, just what we needed,” he said.
Although missing out by the slightest of margins on making an appearance at last week’s Western Cape championships in Paarl, the young athlete is quick to put the disappointment behind her to focus on the upcoming indoor netball national championships.
“Hopefully, we will do well,” she said. “Maybe I can inspire others to chase their dreams and who knows, one day, I’d like to coach athletes and netball players.”
For now, helping her to realise her own dreams, is the biggest priority for Bianca’s grandmother and number one supporter, Cheryl Solomon.
The 61-year-old pensioner is pulling out all the stops to ensure her granddaughter can make the trip to Joburg, knocking on doors all over the city.
As things stand, they still need to raise about R3000 of the R10 000 required to cover all expenses. Although thankful for the help they’ve already received, Solomons is worried that they may miss the deadline.
“I appeal to anyone who can assist, to come forward,” she said. “We really want to make this happen but need to put down the full amount by next week. The team is due to depart on Wednesday May 30.”
Richard Samuels, a close family friend, who works at the community centre on Mitchell’s Avenue, in Woodlands, says he’s known Bianca since a young age and that she’s a role model to many young girls living in the area. “We would appreciate any help we can get for Bianca to take part in this tournament,” he said.
If you can assist, call Solomons on 060 616 338 or Samuels 073 159 5982.