Duck set to take flight in 2017

Piper Duck.
Piper Duck.

Tumut athlete Piper Duck will relocate to Sydney next month to continue her studies at Barker College, having just wrapped up her commitments with the ACT Brumbies for 2016.

She has also recently been selected in a basketball rep squad and is set to train in Newcastle over the weekend.

It represents a period of transition for Duck who will continue to nurture her blossoming career in both basketball and sevens rugby while at the the college.

The prodigiously talented McAuley Catholic Central School student has just returned from representing the ACT Brumbies U17 women’s team at the 2016 Australian National 7s Championships in Perth, where her side finished in fourth position after the two-day tournament, which was taken out by the Queensland team.

The event, held at the University of Western Australia grounds, completes Duck’s Brumbies commitments for 2016, but she certainly isn’t slowing down.

She is one of just 25 players selected in the NSW Basketball U18s Country Women’s State Squad that will be put through their paces at a gruelling training camp in Newcastle this weekend.

It was a whirlwind trip across Australia for Duck and 11 other girls, but a thoroughly rewarding experience for Duck.

With a total of 10 teams competing on the weekend it made for some unusual situations, but she took to it like the proverbial duck to water.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget to be honest and I enjoyed it a lot,” Piper said.

“There were 12 of us in the team over in Perth, and we had a really good bond together, which made it a great experience.”

Sevens is really starting to take off around the world and despite wearing the number 12, which most would assume is inside centre, sevens is a little different, with Piper utilised in the forwards, attracting defenders to create space out wide.

“I was playing forward, prop forward, and on one occasion I was meant to lift my teammate in the line-out, but I just saw the ball and went for it,” she laughed.

With the open spaces in sevens rugby it’s important to create that overlap for the outside backs, and Piper played a key role over the weekend.

“I found that it was a lot different to 15 a-side and rugby league because it’s not about size, it’s about speed. There’s seven on the field, and my job was to run, and suck in the defence, get as many people on me as possible, and that way it created the big overlap out wide,” she said.

Away from the rugby field, Piper’s rapid rise through the basketball ranks continued when she was named in an elite squad of 25 for the upcoming NSW Basketball State training camp in Newcastle

“The basketball squad I’ve made is the top 25 under 18s in NSW at the moment, for country, which will eventually be cut to 15,” Piper said.

“If I make it, that would be amazing, but it’s an opportunity to learn as well.

From the 15 that are selected from the squad, 10 players will attend nationals, and the other five will be shadow players. Nationals will be held in Townsville next year and from there they pick the U/17 Australian side,” Duck said.

She is in for a testing time this weekend, where her core skills will be closely monitored to see if she has what it takes to make it to the next level

“This weekend I’ll be heading to Newcastle for a trial match, which is essentially intensive training for two days, and they test your agility, strength, skills and your ability to learn quickly,” Piper said.

“We train around 6-7 hours a day over the two days and I’ve done this kind of thing before so I’m hoping to build on that experience,” she said.

Finding the time to combine two sports can be tough, especially when you excel at both, regularly making rep teams.

“I still follow basketball, but I definitely want to do my rugby as well, I’m going to try to juggle both in the years ahead.

“But basketball will always be my first choice because I’ve dedicated so much time and effort to it, with Union being so new to me I don’t want to love it just because it’s new, but because I actually like playing the game,” she said.

Her new school has recently added rugby sevens into its’ program, representing a great opportunity for Duck to continue her development in the sport.

“Next year I’m going to look at trialling for NSW Rugby Sevens, as Barker has just implemented rugby sevens. I’m hoping that basketball will be my summer and spring sport and that rugby sevens will be my winter training program rather than participating in a sport that doesn’t interest me,” she said.

Her big move is just around the corner, and she has already met a few of the girls who will be staying at the college alongside her.

“I’ll be moving to Sydney at the end of January. I still haven’t met all my year at Barker yet, and I probably never will, because there’s so many of us, but I’ve met a number of girls that are boarding like me, which is good, because they’re the ones I’ll live with,” she said.

Moving from a small country town to an exclusive school in Sydney represents a huge change for the Tumut teen, but she knows it’s the right move for her.

“It’s going to be a very big difference.

“I’m very excited, but nervous at the same time, because I’m still only 15 and leaving home.

“ I’m going to take the opportunity with both hands and do the best I can with it, and I feel like if I don’t take it now I probably never will and the fact I got offered a scholarship, means it’s not something I’m going to pass up, it’s not something that happens everyday.”