Tonight we crown the best and fairest player from one of the most competitive seasons of Division 1 netball yet seen. It was a year where we saw the changing of the guard at the top end of the division, but not through any diminished output from perennial pennant winners Heatherton and Dingley, as the remainder of the competition strengthened to bridge the gap. So which individual player takes the medal home? Let’s look at the three finalists:
Lesina Lalotoa (Keysborough)
As a pillar of a strong Keysborough defence, Lesina turned in numerous eye-catching displays to help ensure that her team, whilst not winning as many games as they would have liked, were never uncompetitive. Lesina’s strength comes from a great base of mental toughness as she could be set any task and would lock into it, rarely being beaten in a one-on-one battle with her opponent. An excellent reader of the play, she has proven herself to be one of the best hunters of the ball in the division, and also had an excellent season in this regard to be a worthy inclusion in the top three players of 2018.
Makayla Bulte (Caulfield)
Fleet of foot and sharp of mind, the mercurial Makayla Bulte has steadily built up an impressive body of work in her time within the SFNL, to the point where she is now one of the competition’s elite mid-courters. She has the priceless ability to be able to read the play slightly quicker than most, which gives her the capability to place herself in the best position to affect proceedings in the favour of her team. She has long been known for her ability to change a game with ten minutes of brilliant netball, but it is her defensive game that hasn’t always received the plaudits that it deserves. This year she has been able to combine both attacking and defensive elements into the one package, to produce her best season yet.
Caity de Garis (Mordialloc)
In her first year in the SFNL, Mordialloc’s smiling assassin has captured all the accolades yet available, with a best-on-court medal from the grand final to add to the glory of the premiership win. Can she now add a best and fairest medal? Almost impossible to beat in the air and also excellent at ground level, Caity wasted no time in establishing herself as one of the competition’s premier defenders. The quality of her play is only one aspect of her brilliant season though. Her combination with Amy Gledhill, and her leadership around the club were components in Mordialloc’s success in 2018, and one would suggest there’s plenty more to come in future years.
Who will be the leading vote winners in the other three Division 1 sides? There could be any number of ways the count could go for a very even Heatherton side. In a year where defenders have had a huge say in the way that matches have been played, I’ll tip Kirsten Daley
to lead the way for the black and whites. Sara Merkus
’s excellent season as an intercepting defensive mid-courter should see her lead the pack for the Dingoes, with Shae Wonnacott
and Sophie Clark
her main dangers. Hampton Park improved markedly in the second half of their first season in the SFNL, but the two constants leading the way have been Ellie Anthony
and Megan Egbers
. I’ll tip Ellie Anthony to edge out her team-mate and finish with the most votes for the Redbacks.
St Pauls had their moments of brilliance, especially early in the season. Grace Healey
, as always, will poll well but the matches that she missed through injury won’t help her tally. Claire Stratton
had a consistent season and may be prominent, but I’ll go from left field and plump for Zoe Lythgo
to top St Pauls’s count. In a frustrating season for St Kilda City
there are several contenders to top their list. Katarina Lindqvist
, Chloe Ballard
and Sophie Dunn
will have their claims but my tip would be Rosie Augl
to be the top Saint.
So which of the final three will take the medal home? All three had stellar seasons, but in a close vote I’ll tip Makayla Bulte. Whichever of the three ladies wears the crown, it will be an honour richly deserved.