SCHOOLGIRL netball players are proving to be at the top of their game as the discipline becomes the fastest growing women’s sport in the country.

Barnard Castle School’s netball team has started the season in emphatic form with six victories and some team members being selected for national and European trials.

At the end of the month the U16 and U19 squads will compete in the North East Regional Schools final in Newcastle to fight for a place in the nationals.

Three students, Izzy Burgess, Ella Bowen and Carla McKnight, are part of the top flight Team Northumbria squad, who will be undergoing European trials soon.

Izzy, 14, of Barnard Castle, is already a first team player at school despite being just Year 9. Year 10 student Carla, 15, of Romaldkirk, has been selected for trials with Scotland and Year 11 student Ella, 16, of Durham, is in the U17 England squad.

Former student U19 England Nets player Thea Thompson has also returned to her old school to coach and inspire the girls.

The drive to increase the profile of sport at school has been taken on by the newly appointed head of PE and games Rachael Masterman, herself a premier division netballer with Stockton, South Durham and Cleveland.

The recent success is also being put down to the work of head of netball Tanya Broadbent and first team coach Olivia Hovington.

Miss Masterman said: “Netball in this country is huge and the level of enthusiasm among our girls is boundless, lifted undoubtedly by the team success and individual accomplishments of Ella, Izzy and Carla.

“The benefits of sport are limitless both physically, mentally and in stimulating academic achievement. Our aim is to engage students in as many sports as possible, whether that is rugby, badminton, athletics, hockey, swimming, rounders or tennis.

“There are so many benefits to their health and wellbeing, boosting self-esteem, encouraging team work and good communications. By ensuring, more than anything else, that they enjoy sport students are much more likely to continue playing it into adulthood.”

Ella added: “It is great to be part of a team. Netball is fast and fun and, as well as the physical side, I love the tactics of the game. There’s nothing quite like putting on your dress whether that’s to represent school, your club or the country.”