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Newcastle Knights Deliver $10,000 Scholarship For Women In Sport

T
he Newcastle Knights, along with the Minerva Network, have announced the recipient of the inaugural $10,000 Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship.

Australian surf life saving and surf event champion, Jemma Smith, was awarded the 12-month scholarship to enable her to complete her 2021 studies at University of Newcastle while continuing her training with the goal of competing at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as a sprint kayaker.

Speaking at McDonald Jones Stadium, Smith, who is starting her fourth year of study at University of Newcastle, said the scholarship and Minerva Network will help her achieve both her professional and sporting career goals.

“This is a huge honour for me to receive the Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship, which will enable me to complete my Bachelor of Education studies at Newcastle Uni while I chase my dreams of higher honours in my sport,” Smith said.

“The support I have received from the Minerva Network has been immense and it says a lot about the quality of the Newcastle Knights as a club that they are so willing to get behind women in sport and young athletes of all disciplines in the community.

“I’m a fulltime Uni student but still training two to three times every day and travelling regularly, and the financial strain of the past few years has been massive.

“So I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to partner with the Newcastle Knights who do so much for the region and the community,” she said.

Newcastle Knights CEO, Philip Gardner, said the support for women in elite sport is strengthened with partnerships like this.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Minerva Network on supporting women in sport and we congratulate Jemma Smith, an outstanding local athlete, on receiving the inaugural Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship,” Gardner said.

“Our club is committed to creating and supporting pathways for women in sport and the Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship will be offered to a deserving athlete on an annual basis.

“As an NRL club we have a strong focus on developing rugby leage pathways for girls and women, but we also acknowledge the enormous efforts of all women in elite sport and therefore this scholarship is available to all sporting disciplines.

“As a result of this scholarship, Jemma will be better able to realise her educational aspirations as she continues to make her mark as an athlete with her eye on Olympics qualification,” he said.

Minerva Network chairman, Christine McLoughlin, said Smith was picked by a Minerva Network Scholarship Committee comprising Australian business leaders.

“The Minerva scholarships are an investment in our future as the level of skill and discipline shown by our Minerva Athletes in competing at the highest level are precisely the traits we look for in our community leaders and in the world of business,” McLoughlin said.

“We know from working with elite athletes over the past four years at the Minerva Network that they juggle training, competing and part-time work to pay the bills, along with their studies.

“Sadly, when the pressure is on and they need to cover some of the bills, too often those studies are sacrificed.

“The Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship will enable Jemma to compete and train while she completes her studies,” she said.

Smith is now the third young Australian athlete to receive a scholarship from the Minerva Network Scholarships program after it was launched in September 2020, following in the footsteps of Sydney FC player, Jada Whyman, and Australian Rowing World Championship medallist, Georgie Rowe.