By Hugh Maclean
The past netball season has been widely regarded as the biggest, and quite possibly the best, in the short history of the SFNL. But this is best and fairest time, and of course there can be only one winner. While there is occasionally a bolter (let’s not forget that Shane Woewodin once won a Brownlow), I think the winner will probably come from the following five players:
ZALI MIFSUD (Heatherton)
If it can be said that a netball season is a marathon rather than a sprint, then Zali Mifsud is the ultimate marathon runner. Utilising elite fitness, Zali routinely covers every inch of the court in the pursuit of the excellence which won the Division 1 title for her club. No ball headed out of bounds is considered a lost cause, but for all her desperation Zali is an excellent ball user as well. Her attributes were demonstrated amply on grand final day, in which Zali was a worthy recipient of the medal for best player on court.
ALICIA WISE (Dingley)
In a team that has tasted repeated success in recent years and is full of experience, Alicia oozes leadership. She has the game knowledge and calm authority to right any ship that looks in danger of sinking. But there is more to Alicia Wise than just that. Her will to win and hatred of defeat means that anyone that plays on Alicia knows that they’re in for probably their toughest afternoon of the season. She displays the ability that only the very best have: the ability to see the game two and three passes ahead, and most of Dingley’s attacking raids begin in her hands.
RAHNI SAMASON (Heatherton)
Rahni Samason is the cool assassin of the SFNL, a shooter so deadly that the rest of the competition is conscious of the need to keep the ball out of her hands as much as possible. Tall and agile, she knows how to find the ball and has the ability to beat her marker to it when it comes into the goal circle. Once in her hands, Rahni shoots with an accuracy that puts her amongst the elite performers in the competition. The big occasion doesn’t cause Rahni any particular heartache, as shown in the grand final where she capitalised on her opportunities to put Dingley to the sword.
SOPHIE O’SHEA (Caulfield)
As the captain and spiritual leader of a young side in its first Division 1 season, Sophie carried a big responsibility on her shoulders. However, rather than be daunted by the load, she responded to the extent that she was comfortably the leading scorer in the division. The thing that strikes you about Sophie is her ability to get into the right position whilst making it all look so effortless. Whilst some obviously run hard, Sophie seems to glide. Her shooting ability ensured that the work done by the mid-courters would not go unrewarded.
SAM DOWNIE (Keysborough)
As leader of the Borough, Sam Downie’s major skill is her ability to make the right decisions at the right time. But as well as the smarts that she has, within Sam beats the heart of one of the fiercest competitors in the SFNL. As a key defender Sam is a very close marker of her opponent and does not concede an easy ball to her opponent all day. Once the ball is won, Sam is often the driver of the Keysborough machine which moves the ball from one end of the court to the other better than any other side when on song. Stung by her club’s preliminary final loss, I have no doubt that her stellar season will be repeated in 2017.