Australia’s Victor Wembanyama steals the show at national championships

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Among the hundreds of eye-catching moments at this week’s Basketball Australia U18 National Championships, there is one player who has caught the eye more than most.

It has been hard to miss the towering 225cm (that’s 7’4” for those of an older generation) frame of Perth 16-year-old Jongkuch Mach.

With some potential growing years still ahead of him Jongkuch Mach is already one centimetre taller than San Antonio Spurs superstar Victor “Wemby” Wembanyama (224cm) and virtually towers over the man many tip to be the next Aussie basketball hero, Rocco Zikarsky, who only reaches a mere 220cm.

Mach is so tall he has to sleep on an angle and requires a bar stool at the end of the physio table to support his feet when he is getting treatment.

In a short period, Mach’s taken big strides in his game, making his first nationals squad and learning the finer arts of professionalism as part of the Perth Wildcats’ junior academy.

Of course, Mach is not the only junior turning heads at the tournament.

On the girls’ side of the draw it has been a trio of young guns from SA Metro team who are filling the highlight reels.

Aspen Crase, at 189cm, is likely the only girl at the tournament to have slam dunked on a full sized ring, while her teammates, 15-year-old point Keira Gardiner and captain Coco Hodges, have powered the Adelaide-based team into favouritism for the U18 title.

A reminder that you can watch the finals live this weekend at KommunityTV.

Netball championships provide highlights galore

While the tall timber has been tearing it up in Brisbane at the basketball championships, the Netball Australia National U17 and U19 championships have also been showcasing the future stars this week in Frankston.

One of the most emotional moments came when the Northern Territory U19 team – a true minnow against the bigger states – recorded its first victory in living memory at the titles.

When the final whistle blew with NT leading the ACT 28-25, it sparked scenes of wild jubilation.

Some players had to choke back tears while others ran into the grandstands to celebrate with loved ones.

It had all the emotion of a gold medal triumph, but in reality it was just the first session on the second day of the National Netball Championships.

Despite the win the NT is unlikely to feature prominently in the finals which are being live streamed this weekend.

Taking junior sport to a whole new level

Many parents and families members have had to commute long distances this week to watch their teens in action at the national titles, but their journeys pale in comparison to the trek being planned by the Sunshine Coast soccer club which is planning to compete on the other side of the world.

The Sunshine Coast Fire say they have lost so much faith in Australia’s football landscape that they have made the extraordinary decision to join youth leagues in the United Kingdom.

It’s a heck of a long commute from Maroochydore to Manchester but the Fire are now asking its U19 and U16 to pack their bags and prepare to compete in the National Youth League and the Junior Premier League in the UK from September next year.

The remarkable decision follows a long-running battle with Football Queensland which resulted in the club being removed from all junior and senior competitions.

The club said they still had ‘no idea’ why they had been removed in the first place while a Football Queensland spokesperson said there were no legal matters in existence between the parties.

Club Sporting Director Melvyn Wilkes said the Fire would compete against renowned professional clubs with development squads such as Liverpool, Everton, Leeds United, Chelsea, Newcastle United and others, including the Nationwide League Youth Cup and Trophy competitions.

Players will be required to commit to a 10-month full-time program in the UK, consisting of pre-season preparations, training, matches and remote online learning delivered by Peregian Beach College.

Wilkes said the club would be viewing a 16-month window to attract applications from parents and players across Australia.

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