Hayleigh Campbell was in her final year of high school when she decided, along with her mum and sister, to start a local netball club aimed at empowering young girls and women.

And so the Campbelltown Thunder Netball Club came to be in 2016 as a way to give back to the community they had been a part of for so long.  

“I’ve lived in Campbelltown since I was 1, and I’ve been involved in sport in Campbelltown since I was 5. Mum has always been active in volunteering and fundraising for local causes in our area, so it was really just second-nature to pursue something like this,” Ms Campbell said.

Ms Campbell acquired much of her drive and dedication from watching her mother be so involved with the Campbelltown community. She is a no-nonsense, strong leader who is not afraid to voice her opinion. She said, “I like to speak up when I have a thought which gets me in trouble sometimes, but it does tend to work in my favour too.”   

Being awarded Young Citizen of the Year for 2024, which came as a huge surprise was also a kind of a full-circle moment for her: mum, Monique Keogh, had been honoured as Campbelltown’s Woman of the Year in 2020!

“It was really quite nice to be honored in the same way that she was,” Ms Campbell said.

Ms Campbell is now a full-time schoolteacher, juggling her teaching responsibilities with her duties managing the netball club. She is Club President at Campbelltown Thunder and is heavily involved with the Campbelltown District Netball Association as Umpire Convenor and head coach of the Under 11’s Representative Development Squad.  

She attributes a lot of her passion as a mentor and leader to her overwhelmingly positive experience at an all-girls school. She has fond memories of teachers that demonstrated what it meant to be a great leader, and how she had wanted to emulate those role models.  

“At an all-girls school, we were always taught nothing was off limits. That environment of girls supporting girls was the kind of culture that Mum and I wanted to replicate with the club, so we put our heads together and did that,” Ms Campbell said. 

Ms Campbell knows intimately the importance of feeling safe and empowered as a young girl, particularly when it comes to sport where many girls struggle to overcome social anxiety and the fear of judgement if they make a mistake. 

She said, “Girls in particular need to feel comfortable, need to feel safe and empowered… we’ve created a safe space where girls of any ability can come down, try out their skills and be supported and coached through without judgement.” 

Ms Campbell also believes sport should be accessible for everyone, no matter their financial situation or background. The club does whatever they can to ensure there are no barriers preventing families from giving their kids these positive opportunities.  

“The club does not profit from registration costs whatsoever. We haven’t changed the fees for registration or uniforms since we started 8 years ago. We do whatever we need to do to make it work. We have great local sponsors, and we do a lot of fundraising so we don’t need to increase fees for struggling families,” she said. 

Hayleigh Campbell with her role model & mum, Monique Keogh

Ms Campbell feels that she only manages to do all she does because of the amazing support system she has in her family, and her new husband, Riley.  

“It gets full on. I won’t sit here and pretend I have it all together, I don’t. But I’m learning it’s okay to ask for help and nothing is ever built by just one person. As the saying goes, it takes a village,” she said. 

“And when you have these exciting endeavours and dreams it is okay to lean on your support system.” 

Though she tries her best to switch off when she does get some down-time, Ms Campbell admits she does not do well with too much time alone. She is incredibly self-aware and not afraid to laugh at herself or poke fun at her own faults. She said, “…I always have to be doing. I think there is a diagnosis of ADHD outstanding that needs to happen because I just cannot sit still.” 

Sometimes, when she does get a little carried away, Riley will gently remind her to give herself a break.   

Ms Campbell is excited by the prospect of netball still holding the number one sport for women in the Campbelltown area and will be working hard to keep it a safe, welcoming space for young girls and women.  

For now though she is trying to enjoy some well-deserved down-time on school holidays and is still basking in the happiness of newly wed life.  

–  Emily Kaine