With so much netball talent in the Ovens and Murray League, it's certainly no easy task to narrow it down to a top 20. Renowned defender Sophie Hanrahan took it up another notch in Saints' colours this season, while Panther Christine Oguche's confidence grew in leaps and bounds. Several stars were unlucky not to make the list, while there were a number of young guns not mentioned who proved they belong in the senior netball ranks. The Border Mail's GEORGIA SMITH has established the list based on who had the ability to influence the game this season, while keeping in mind A-grade court time.
1: SOPHIE HANRAHAN
It's easy to see how Hanrahan has cemented herself in the competition as a three-time Toni Wilson Medallist. With invaluable versatility and strength in defence, the newly appointed Roos' coach departs Myrtleford as a Saints' best and fairest winner after one season at the club. While Australian Netball Championships and Victorian Netball League commitments made her unavailable at times, her exposure to a higher level only saw her take it up another notch this season.
2: CHRISTINE OGUCHE
It's hard to believe Oguche only took up netball a couple of years ago. The 17-year-old goal shooter has had a breakout A-grade season, with her confidence visibly growing. Her height and accuracy have been major assets for the Panthers, making her extremely hard to match-up against on court. A premiership and Paula Carey Medal for best on court performance in the grand final topped off what has been a standout season for the youngster.
3: MADDI LLOYD
Lloyd continued to rise as a leader for Lavington. Her pinpoint accuracy to feed into the goal circle was crucial in setting up opportunities for the Panthers this season. Her list of credentials continued to grow, not only as a premiership player, but a worthy two-time Toni Wilson Medallist. Relied upon by her teammates to deliver in high pressure moments.
4: EMILY STEWART
They say change is as good as a holiday. The former Panther flourished in red and blue this season and played a key role in the side's finals campaign. The talented goal attack rarely lets a scoring opportunity pass her by and is just as impressive with her defensive pressure when the tables turn. She has a tremendous ability to influence the game, receiving runner-up in Raiders' vote count in her debut season at the club and polling 14 votes in the league's count.
5: EMILY BROWNE
A natural born leader. The three-time Toni Wilson Medallist was unlucky to have battled injuries this season, but her presence was always felt in the midcourt when she was able to take her position. The Hoppers' playing coach is a role model for the club's young netballers, with invaluable experience and knowledge of the game. After taking out the league's highest honour last season, Browne once again polled within the top six.
6: SARAH MOORE
Cool, calm, collected, and always making an impact. The Ovens and Murray stalwart continues to make a name for herself as a Pigeon. Reliable under pressure and a leader for younger players coming up through the ranks, it's no surprise why Moore is one of the most highly respected goal shooters in the competition. She finished just two votes behind Lloyd and Hanrahan to be crowned runner-up in the league's count.
7: HANNAH SYMES
Symes continues to reign supreme as one of the best defenders in the competition. After reaching 100 A-grade games as a Pigeon, her season was capped off with a Tracy Gillies club medal after being deemed the best and fairest player. No task is too great for Symes, with her determination and never say die attitude always an asset for the Pigeons.
8: TAYLA FURBOROUGH
Everyone now knows the name Tayla Furborough. After stepping up into the Panthers' A-grade side full-time this season, the former B-grade league best and fairest winner rose to the challenge to cement her stance as one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Her ability to read the play and create turnovers had the Panthers well on their way to success, emerging as the fourth highest vote scorer in the Toni Wilson Medal race.
9: ELLIE COOPER
After debuting in the competition last year as a Saint, Cooper made a seamless transition into her new home with the Magpies. The skilled midcourter took out the club's A-grade best and fairest award in her debut season and was once again selected for the Ovens and Murray's interleague side. She shows determination and drive to succeed.
10: MIA LAVIS
Definitely a name to remember. Lavis' speed and footwork in the circle, paired with her composure and accuracy in front of goal, made her a hard task for defenders. While the under-17 league best and fairest winner split her time between juniors and A-grade, there was no denying her ability to influence senior games when she stepped on court. Not many players can say they were also a Commonwealth Youth Games Gold Medallist this year.
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11: GEORGIA CLARK
After overcoming a devastating knee injury during last year's preliminary final, Clark returned with determination for the Magpies this season. Showing effortless composure in front of goal, she also has the ability to swing into the midcourt if needed. Like Cooper, Clark was also selected for a second consecutive season in the O and M interleague side and relishes a challenge.
12: LAURA RYAN
The newly appointed Pigeons' A-grade co-coach continues to go from strength to strength after arriving from the Goulburn Valley League last year. The wing-defence has the ability to read the play well and create opportunities for conversion, once again receiving interleague selection. She will now embark on her next chapter as a playing coach alongside Laura Davis.
13: ISSY NEWTON
Quick, strong and never gives up. An integral part of the Magpies' midcourt, Newton has the ability to impact the game and create a shift in momentum. She thrives in challenging situations and uses her speed and agility to her advantage, particularly against taller opponents. Polled within the top 10 in the league's vote count.
14: TINA WAY
An experienced voice on court who leads by example. The playing co-coach continued to be a driving force for the Saints in defence this season. Way knows how to get the best out of herself and her teammates and polled 12 votes throughout the season to find herself within the top 10 in the league's vote count. Way will assist A-grade coach Liv La Spina next season, while taking to the helm of B-grade.
15: MADDY ALLAN
In her second season with Yarrawonga, the Geelong Football Netball League export continued to strengthen her position in the Pigeons' goal circle. Allan was among the shooting line-up named in the Ovens and Murray's interleague squad after displaying poise and composure in front of goal. With Bridget Cassar absent on court this season, it opened up more opportunities for Allan and other young shooters.
16: MACKENSEY HOUSE
The back-to-back Raiders' A-grade best and fairest winner has evolved from a junior into a key senior player for the club. Her defensive pressure down the court helped the side book their first grand final appearance in club history, as she matched it with the best goal attacks in the league. House always remains calm under pressure and keeps her cool.
17: OLIVIA LA SPINA
La Spina was able to put her season ending Achilles injury behind her to make her netball comeback and debut as a Saint. The skilled midcourter rose to the challenge in her first stint as a playing co-coach, with leadership qualities to match. The former Roo was once again in the interleague mix. She's set to continue in the Saints' top netball job next season.
18: GABE McRAE
Now a two-time Albury best and fairest winner, McRae is dynamite in the midcourt for the Tigers. She has the ability to match-up with any other centre in the competition and never gives up. McRae was the highest polling Tiger in the league's vote count, finishing the season with 11 votes to her name.
19: HANNAH GRADY
A renowned defender within the league, Grady continued to help keep opposing attacking players at bay. In her second season as a playing coach, she was able to lead the Magpies, alongside club stalwart Lou Byrne, to another finals series. Grady was one of six players to poll 11 votes in the league's vote count this season and once again represented the league.
20: MAGGIE ST JOHN
St John does not stop running. The quiet achiever is always reliable in the centre for Raiders. Her ability to get hands on the ball and create intercepts was vital in shifting momentum in favour of her side throughout their finals campaign. While she wasn't among the top vote scorers in the league or club count, she's definitely not a player to disregard.
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