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Youngsters to float like butterflies, with a punch

To steal a line from Muhammad Ali, Australia's next generation of netball stars are aiming to float like butterflies and sting the opposition like bees at this year's world youth championships.

Just as the greatest boxer in history used his speed to defeat the more powerful George Foreman, the AIS netball squad, including Canberra goal defence Keely Rodrigo, is using the sweet science to remain ahead of the competition.

Boxing Australia national coach Paul Perkins takes two sessions a week consisting of footwork and speed around the court in the lead-up to the titles, to be held in Glasgow in August.

The Australian under-21 squad will be chosen on Saturday before it is whittled down later in the year.

Rodrigo is a strong chance of getting the nod after featuring in the AIS's recent 5-0 whitewash of a junior England team.

Just the second ACT player to graduate to national honours, Rodrigo can already see the benefits of integrating the agility of boxing into her skills, as spots in the Australian team go on the line.


''Definitely the footwork I can see transferring to my defensive game so I can get around players,'' she said. ''I can see the attackers using it for their dodges and clearing space.

''Making the world championships is definitely a goal for everyone here, but our coach Julie Fitzgerald has told us just to enjoy the year.''

Perkins is in his first week of training with the netball squad and believes the increased pace and split-second decision-making can provide a secret weapon once the Australian team hits Scotland.

''I think the skills are transferable across the two sports,'' he said. ''We have a nice, strong athletic base to operate from, we can change directions quicker and that might give us a distinct time advantage over the opposition. When the ball comes in, we might have a split second to throw the pass and move into new space.''

While Rodrigo has been earmarked as a star, the 18-year-old will be a keen spectator when arch rivals Australia and New Zealand square off in Canberra for the first time in October.

The match is at the AIS Arena as part of the Centenary celebrations, and is the first visit of the Diamonds since they defeated England in front of a capacity crowd in 2011. ''New Zealand is a whole another level of competition,'' Rodrigo said.