Date: July 21 2012
She's four years younger than most of her opponents but ACT under-21s coach Melinda Clarke has backed netball prodigy Keely Rodrigo to continue her rapid rise and break into the Australian senior side in the coming years.
Rodrigo was selected in the Australian under-21 side for the second year in a row after her stellar performances for the ACT junior team at the national titles.
She's just 17 years old and still at school while most of her teammates have full-time jobs or are studying at university.
But while she may be young, Clarke is adamant Rodrigo can play an international Test against the best players that the world has to offer.
''She's developed a lot over the last few months with the AIS and with the Australian unders,'' Clarke said. ''If she keeps working hard then yeah, she can do it.''
Rodrigo is the second youngest member of the Australian squad.
She emerged from the Canberra Darters program and impressed selectors again this year with dominant performances for Clarke's representative side.
Despite her rapid 12 months, Keely is not taking anything for granted.
''It means a lot. It's a great opportunity to play internationally and improve all aspects of my game,'' she said.
Clarke believed Rodrigo's ability to understand the game will serve her well as she progresses to the senior ranks.
''She reads the play really well,'' Clarke said. ''She has great shot defence and has the ability to come off the body and attack the ball.''
Rodrigo keeps herself busy combining her international sporting commitments with Year 12 studies at St Clare's College and a casual job.
If selected in November for a tour of Jamaica, Rodrigo may have to postpone her Year 12 final exams.
The talented defender is a product of the Netball ACT Academy programs and has put in a lot of hard work.
Keely is also a 2012 AIS scholarship holder, the only ACT member, and she thinks playing regularly with the AIS team in the Australian Netball League can only improve her game.
''Every time I play with the AIS girls, I learn something new. They already know so much and I can really improve my game with them,'' Rodrigo said.
The training squad will work towards the ultimate goal of winning selection in the team to compete at the 2013 World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow.
For now though, her focus is on a three-day camp at the AIS from July 27-29 in a bid to win selection for a youth international series with New Zealand, England and Samoa in Ballarat, Victoria in August.
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