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Perth Swans netball team shoots for gold at Australian Sikh Games

Simran Wadhawan and Jasleen Sandhu of the Sikh Swans netball team
Simran Wadhawan and Jasleen Sandhu are both hoping their team will finish first this year.

ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne

The annual Australian Sikh Games gives over 40,000 people the chance for friendly competition while also celebrating their cultural identity.

Ahead of the games — to be held in Adelaide over the Easter weekend — ABC Radio Perth paid the Perth Sikh Swans a visit as they trained on a concrete, open air netball court outside the Bennett Springs temple, on the city's eastern fringe.

The team, made up of 11 players aged 13 to 16, was founded by Satwinder Gill after the Australian Sikh Games were held in Perth back in 2014.

The Sikh Swans junior netball team
The Perth Sikh Swans netball team train every Sunday at Bennett Springs.

ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne

"It's the major sporting event for Sikhs in Australia," Ms Gill said of the games.

"It's now attracting teams from all around the world including New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and India.

'More than just spectators'

But back in 2014 there were no junior girls' teams in the competition.

Ms Gill was determined to give the local girls from her temple an opportunity to be more than just spectators.

Satwinder Gill, coordinator of the Sikh Swans netball team
The Sikh Swans exist thanks to Satwinder Gill.

ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne

"I contacted the [games] committee to suggest it," Ms Gill recalled.

"It was not an easy process; they were not receptive to the idea but with multiple attempts they finally agreed.

"There were no junior teams in the tournament, but I was very persistent and we did it."

Shooting for gold

In 2016, the Swans travelled to Brisbane to compete for the first time.

Two girls shoot a netball goal
The Perth Sikh Swans are shooting for gold at the Sikh games in Adelaide.

ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne

They finished second in a competition that included just two other teams.

This year they are shooting for gold.

Parent and coach Ravi Sandhu said whatever the result, it would be a good experience for the girls.

"I played hockey when I was younger and it brought us all together," Mr Sadhu recalled.

"It's good to do that once a year."

Player Jasleen Sandhu said competing in Brisbane last year had been an "amazing experience".

"It was nice to meet Sikh girls my age from other parts of Australia," she said.

"We have trained thoroughly these last few months and have our fingers crossed at winning this year."

It all started with one hockey match

Organisers are expecting over 42,000 to attend the Games over the Easter weekend.

The games have come a long way since competition began back in 1987.

"Members of the community just wanted to have a friendly hockey match," Ms Gill explained.

"They ended up having more people get involved and the following year they also had soccer and Kabaddi, which is like Sikh wrestling."

This year 1,200 athletes will compete in 10 different events.