Sunshine Coast Lightning player Jacqui Russell and Willow Perkins, 6, enjoy a school holiday clinic at Caloundra Indoor Stadium.
Sunshine Coast Lightning player Jacqui Russell and Willow Perkins, 6, enjoy a school holiday clinic at Caloundra Indoor Stadium. Patrick Woods

Lightning player juggles court life with classroom

WHEN Jacqui Russell is not schooling opponents out on the netball court, she's in the classroom teaching the young minds of Queensland.

As a qualified high school teacher, Jacqui is passionate about helping students achieve their best both academically and out on the sporting field.

It's a career she says is not only interactive and people focused but also incredibly rewarding.

Plus, the 30-year-old gets to throw around a netball or two, so how bad could it be?

Jacqui teaches at Cavendish Road State High School, who work around her demanding training schedule, giving her time off during the Suncorp Super Netball Season to focus on her sporting career.

The school has a reputation for excellence in sports itself, having its own Netball Academy, in which Jacqui is the director of.

Year 7 to 10 students accepted into the netball excellence program can study the sport as a subject instead of a regular physical education unit.

As a professional netballer, Jacqui mentors these girls and passes on knowledge to help them learn what it takes to make it as an athlete playing at an elite level.

"They've also got a Football Academy and a Touch Football Academy and there are some really high-quality teachers in there,” Jacqui said.

"For example, the Football Academy teacher has literally just been over at the World Cup on the coaching staff for the Matildas. These girls have access to really high-quality coaching and really valuable experience at such a young age, and I think that's a pretty big benefit for them.”

However, during the netball season Jacqui calls the beautiful Sunshine Coast home, residing in Currimundi with her two housemates Maddie and Bec.

The house is a social one that always has visitors swinging in and out, however, they might not be the type of visitors you'd expect.

The three girls participate in the Safe Haven Animal Rescue Fostering Program. Where they look after puppies and dogs who need a temporary home from anywhere between a few days to a couple of months.

"It started through my housemate Bec, who's studying to be a vet nurse, so she's really into animal care and animal welfare,” Jacqui said.

"We look after any adorable puppies or dogs that need a home for a little while, we've actually got one coming this weekend called Hatch.”

One of Jacqui's favourite fosters was a gorgeous Great Dane puppy named George, who she says had her heart from day one.

"He was so cute, he was honestly such a sweetheart,” she said.

"I really wanted to keep him, but I thought it probably doesn't really fit in with my life plans, having a huge great dane. I want to buy a little one- or two-bedroom apartment sometime soon and the dog wouldn't even fit in there,” Jacqui joked.

In Australia, around 130,000 healthy dogs are euthanised each year largely due to a lack of resources and support needed to re-home them.

Jacqui said her household loves being able to do their part to help a problem that many people are unaware is so big.

"I think I never really realised until I started following Safe Haven on Facebook and Instagram just how many dogs and cats need homing and care. It's constant, every single day there are new animals that need to be fostered and re-homed,” Jacqui said.

"So, if we can just help even a little bit because we have the space and the ability to do so, at least we are chipping in and helping.”

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