Vixens' night of nights

6 months ago

Sharelle McMahon considers the Melbourne Vixens’ Most Valuable Player medal that bears her name to be a broader acknowledgement of the grand history of Victorian netball. McMahon was shocked, initially, then humbled by the honour, considering all those who have gone before her and their contributions to the game.

“With the lead-up to the formation of the Vixens and how that pathway developed via the Melbourne Phoenix and Kestrels, and the teams that were playing at the elite level prior to that, there’s a very long history of amazing women who have been involved in netball,’’ says McMahon, who retired at the end of 2013.

“So it’s amazing to have been given this honour when I look at the other people that they had to select from. It does talk to the history that has come about in the creation of the Melbourne Vixens, but it certainly goes back well prior to when I was running around out on court, as well.

“That’s a really special thing for the Melbourne Vixens and it’s something that the Melbourne Vixens and Netball Victoria are very proud of, and they should be.’’

Now a specialist shooting coach at the club in tandem with her long-time goaling partner Eloise Southby, the inaugural Vixens’ captain won the MVP in 2009 and 2010 after Natasha Chokljat claimed the original gong, and now presents annually what was renamed the Sharelle McMahon Medal in 2014.

A combination of brilliance and consistency would suggest that an honour roll that also contains the names Geva Mentor (three times), Madi Browne/Robinson (twice), Karyn Bailey and last year’s club champion, Liz Watson, may see another repeat winner crowned at the gala dinner at Encore St Kilda on 31 August.

Yet although McMahon hailed another “outstanding’’ season from Watson, who again led the league in goal assists (426) and was third for centre pass receives (308) in her 14 games, the former great also praised superstar shooter Mwai Kumwenda’s season, which was ended so devastatingly by a torn ACL after producing 501 goals from 526 attempts.

Not that McMahon gets to vote, for that is the job of coaches Simone McKinnis, Di Honey and Joh Munro, who deliver their verdict on a 3-2-1 basis each week. ’Shaz’, as she is affectionately known, also points out that what those tasked with assigning roles see and value may be different from what the general spectator does.

Injuries, of course, were a major disruptor during the fifth-placed Vixens’ season, with 14 players gaining court-time, and original squad member Emma Ryde sidelined for the entirety after injuring her kneecap in the lead-up to round one.

“There have been so many changes, which certainly made it really challenging and had quite an impact on the team,’’ says McMahon.

“But the flipside of that is that there were a number of players who really did step up when that happened, so as with anything there’s a silver lining.

“Renae Ingles was a fantastic signing and it was great to be able to have someone like her to step onto court, and Kadie-Ann Dehaney in particular was the other one who had to carry the load when Em Mannix was out and she’s really blossomed through that opportunity.

“Of course, every single year we want to win the championship, that’s what the aim is, and unfortunately this year we didn’t achieve what we wanted to. The year has obviously been disappointing with the way it’s ended, it’s been a tough year on a number of different fronts, but it’s really important to take a bit of time to celebrate what was great about the season as well.''

McMahon laughs that having her name on the MVP medal still takes a little getting used to, for when court announcer Pete Lazer promotes the awards night on match days and she hears her name, she has to remind herself that he is talking about, not to, her.

“It’s strange - it feels in some ways a bit uncomfortable,’’ she says.

“I kind of have to get past that and say ‘you know what, it is a great honour, and it’s about more than just being named after me, it’s kind of an acknowledgement of that Victorian netball history’.’’

Other awards to be presented on 2018 Sharelle McMahon Medal night include the MVP runner-up, Outstanding Service Award, and the Excellence in Sport and Life Award, while milestones will also be acknowledged.

The 2018 Sharelle McMahon Medal will be held on Friday 31 August. Follow the Melbourne Vixens Facebook page for a live stream of the event.

By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.

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