Before Saturday’s pre-season game in Traralgon not many people would have recognised the name Sharni Lambden. But by the end of the weekend, many netball fans were singing the praises of the versatile midcourter who dazzled with her aerial craft and dynamic movement.
The chance to get out on court and showcase her talent was not something Sharni took lightly, explaining just how exciting it was to pull on the Vixens dress against the Thunderbirds.
“It definitely felt surreal, like obviously being on court with those elite players, I literally was fangirling,” Sharni laughed.
“It was just so good to go out and play. I guess because we haven't really played and obviously with the pandemic it has been tricky. It's just good to have a first good hit out.”
It’s fair to say that the moment still hasn’t fully sunk in for Sharni who is basking in a post-Traralgon glow despite putting her body on the line to win ball back for her side.
“I'm still sitting here thinking about how good it was even getting the two wins. It was a very good experience, and I loved every bit of it.”
A naturally gifted wing defence, Sharni showcased her class and skillset throughout her Traralgon pre-season campaign to really stamp her name on the competition and drive the ball down the court.
Up against the likes of Maisie Nankivell and Georgie Horjus, Sharni dug into her bag of tricks to combat the various styles of each wing attack.
“Maisie is a bigger body, she's hard to get around and finds your body, so it was just hard to get your feet around in front. I found it really hard to play on her, she's quite dynamic as well.
“Then Georgie as well, she's quite smart with the ball and she's quite short and zippy. She's very hard to play on.”
Lambden impressed throughout the tournament with her versatility and flexibility, seamlessly rotating through wing defence and goal defence.
“They're two completely different positions. Sometimes it can be hard to adapt, but once you've had the training, it's pretty easy to come into the game,” she said.
“It can be quite tricky at times, because they can be two completely different players that you play on. It's just having to find that adaptability to change the style of play.”
The roadtrip to Traralgon was another highlight for Lambden, with the midcourter emphasising the importance of giving back to the community and showcasing netball for aspiring young players.
“It was actually awesome, heading to Traralgon. It was good to just get down there and show all those younger netballers and play a match down there for them, which is great.”
There were plenty of takeaways from the pre-season encounter with the Thunderbirds, but the most important thing for Sharni was soaking up as much as she could from the players around her.
“Just being with the group and experiencing what it's like to be at that level - it was good to see how everyone preps and how to get yourself into the game, and just soaking it all in, especially with the crowd.
“It felt so surreal, taking that all in and going out on court and playing with the girls. I'm just very grateful for that.”
Playing in the Victorian Netball League with Casey Demons, Lambden is no stranger to hard work and physicality however she did notice the step up in both games across the weekend.
“It's definitely completely different. But coming into the Vixens, I felt very welcomed, and it was a great feeling because they're all just such awesome people. Obviously VNL and SSN are completely different, they're a different intensity and ballgame - it is crazy but everyone is very supportive.”