By TONY WHITE
YAMBA'S Australian Under-21 netball member Lauren Berger took time out last week to catch up with family and friends at home and ready herself for what promises to be an eventful season.
The 20-year-old is still over the moon at her selection in the Australian Under-21 netball squad for next year that elevates her to the international stage and moves her a step closer to her ultimate goal - playing for the Australian senior team.
"It was a great thrill but a real shock," Berger admitted. "But I'm really thrilled, still excited.
"Obviously it's a stepping stone to the senior team but I've got a long way to go.
"However, it's a good start."
The Under-21 team's international calendar is yet to be finalised but Berger said international matches against Australia's arch netball rivals New Zealand and helping the senior team prepare for the Commonwealth Games were included on the agenda.
Australia's humbling defeats at the hands of the Kiwis was a hard pill to swallow for Aussie fans and Berger alike.
"Yeah it was really disappointing," Berger said.
"I wouldn't write the Australians off yet. We'll beat them for sure in the Commonwealth Games."
After representing NSW last season while playing for the Sydney Swifts, captained by Australia's injured senior netball captain, Liz Ellis, Berger came under close scrutiny from national selectors.
"Playing for the Swifts was an awesome experience. I had a great time," Berger said. "I learned so much."
Berger, a former McAuley College student, moved to Sydney when she finished her HSC, to attend university and further her netball career.
She is completing a Bachelor of Community Welfare degree at the University of Western Sydney.
Next year, however, Berger will become a full-time resident at the Australian Institute of Sport's Canberra base.
"I've got 18 months to finish my degree and I'll either try cross institutional, correspondence or put it back for a while. I'm just not sure at this stage," Berger said.
"I'm really looking forward to the AIS. I'm due to head down there in January."
Next year Berger will play for the AIS team, the Darters, in the national netball competition.
The happy-go-lucky netballer is looking forward to the challenges ahead and setting new goals.
"Life is grand at the moment, I'm very happy and I've got plenty to aim for and look forward to," she said.