Sporting stars have their day in the sun

THE sun shone on Albury’s sporting champions yesterday.

From netball to soccer, AFL to hockey and all sports in between the best of the best were honoured in a civic reception in QEII Square.

Among the champions were back-to-back Group 9 winners Albury Thunder, state league hockey winners the Strikers and rugby union juggernaut the Steamers.

In more localised competitions were the winners of the women’s soccer cup — after repeated runner-up medals — Albury City, along with the Albury Tigers in reserve and under-18 O and M footy, and winners of all four netball finals at Lavington Oval almost two weeks ago.

Panthers netball captain Sarah Senini said it was an unexpected bonus.

“It has been so long between drinks for our club that we had no idea this even happened,” she said.

“I guess like everyone here we have all made sacrifices for our sport.

“For us there is training Tuesday and Thursday night and games on the weekend but the reality is all of the girls do extra work — whether that is in the gym, the pool, stretching, it turns out to be five and six days a week in winter.

“You play to win grand finals and we have savoured every moment since then but what really struck home to me was on the Tuesday after the grand final we all went back to the Lavington Oval and just sat around and talked about the win.

“That’s when it really sank in.”

Albury Steamers captain Nathan Bright too said it had taken several weeks for the “penny to drop”.

The first XV dominated the rugby season — their 41-7 grand final win the exclamation point on an undefeated year.

“It is great that the council puts on a day like this — recognises the successful sporting teams in the city — there are so many of them,” he said.

“I might play a role next year but not in the same way as this season — there are five or six of us retiring but the second grade was so strong I would expect many of them to take the next step and look to go back-to-back.”

But Strikers best and fairest Amy Allen said she was at a loose end this weekend.

After a season of travelling to and from Melbourne every fortnight the star hockey player said this was the first free time since February.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said.

“But days like this are terrific for hockey — we are here alongside teams and codes that dominate the sports pages.

“We play at an elite level but hockey is not a particularly high profile sport, so to be here today is in part recognition of what we achieved this year.”

Allen said her future in the sport is unclear.

The 150-plus game state league hockey veteran at just 26 is considering a year off.

“There will be changes next year — we will lose some girls to university and Sadie Butler is getting married in Britain during the winter,” she said.

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