Bendigo netball young guns Ruby Barkmeyer and Ruby Turner have put the frustration of a season without netball behind them after winning selection in Netball Australia's 2020 centre of excellence squads.
Barkmeyer and Turner are among a group of about 90 players from across Australia chosen in the 21-and-under, 19-and-under and 17-and-under national squads.
Their inclusion puts the ultra-talented pair in contention to represent Australia at next year's Netball World Youth Cup.
For Turner, her selection in the 19-and-under squad is an early birthday present, with the star Sandhurst youngster set to turn 18 in two weeks.
"It's probably the best birthday present I could get. It's been a year full of disappointments in a way, but when you get opportunities like this it makes things a lot brighter," she said.
"Its a pretty rare opportunity.
"I know Ruby Barkmeyer has done it before and is in there again, and there are a few other girls from my Victorian team in there, so it's good that I'll know other people in there."
Her selection in the centre of excellence squad is the second major honour for Turner this year, after being picked in Netball Victoria's elite development squad earlier in the year.
Unfortunately, the squad trained only once together in Melbourne before the city again went into lockdown and the program was put on hold.
Turner, who was set to be part of Sandhurst's push for a four-peat of BFNL A-grade flags this season, while also lining up for VNL club North East Blaze, has had plenty more to deal with outside of netball this year.
The 17-year-old is in the midst of completing year 12 at Catherine McAuley College and is readying for her final exams, with most of her study this year being undertaken online and at home.
"It's definitely been a tough year, especially being back in ISO round two," Turner said.
"It hasn't been much fun, but hopefully we're back in the classroom by next term."
In the meantime, Turner has continued to work on her skills during the current phase of COVID restrictions with the help of her sisters Olivia and Bridget.
Netball Australia has tentatively scheduled training camps for members of its centre of excellence squads in November.
While no play has been possible in Victoria during the coronavirus pandemic due to higher case numbers, the two Rubys hope they will not be at too much of a disadvantage, with netballers in most states having long since returned to the court.
"The other states have been quite lucky with their competitions being played while Victoria is locked down, so we're not really getting any exposure to on-court stuff," said Barkmeyer, who lined up with HDFNL club Elmore and Boroondara Express in the VNL in 2019.
"The camp will give me a good indication of where I'm at. A few of the girls are playing SSN (Super Netball), so they will be match-fit and prepared.
"Us Vic girls might be a bit out of touch."
The 19-year-old was all set for an exciting 2020 season with ANL team Victorian Fury, after completing her first pre-season as a training partner with Super Netball team Melbourne Vixens.
"This year has obviously been very disappointing, not having an ANL season, but the (centre of excellence) camp at the end of the year is definitely something to look forward to," Barkmeyer said.
"It's been tough, having done that six to eight months of pre-season - it was quite solid - so it would have been nice to get out on court.
"If you are going to do all that training, you really want to play, but I guess there's nothing you can do about it. Everybody here is in the same boat.
"Hopefully, at some point, I'll get back to training at the VIS."
While the Vixens have continued on their merry way from Queensland to be 10 points clear at the top of the Super Netball ladder, Barkmeyer has continued to maintain contact with the program.
"I'm still doing strength and conditioning during the week and court sessions via Zoom with some of the girls from the VIS development squad," he said.
"We're still touching the ball. Dad (Jamie) has been my thrower, so it's been good to keep up the court fitness. Especially with the camp coming up soon, the fitness will be needed.
"Hopefully soon we can get out and do a bit more. It would be nice to catch up with Ruby Turner and maybe do a bit of court stuff together as preparation."