TERANG Mortlake’s Jess O’Connor is a good chance to become the first defender in more than a decade to win the Hampden league’s A grade netball best and fairest award tomorrow.
Last year’s winner Tracey Baker, of Camperdown, said three of the past four winners had played at wing attack, but she was tipping O’Connor to pick up the major individual award.
Baker said O’Connor stood out for Terang Mortlake, which had won enough games by finishing the regular season in fourth place to attract votes.
“She will go well,” Baker said.
She is predicting the award could be dominated by defenders, with her teammate Emma Wright, also a goal keeper, tipped to lead the Magpies’ tally. Wright’s worry is that she missed a couple of games while playing with Ballarat Pride.
Baker ruled herself out of picking up a third award.
“God no,” she said when asked if she could win.
“When you’re coach, it’s hard to coach and focus on your own game.”
Teammate Leah Sinnott, who was runner-up last year, might also poll well, along with the club’s quiet-achiever goal attack Jaymie Finch.
Baker said several sides had regularly switched their players around this year, which could result in a tight, low count.
Minor premier Koroit finished the home-and-away season undefeated but, such was its evenness, the Saints are likely to steal votes off each other.
Former coach Stacey O’Sullivan has enjoyed a good year in defence, while the return of veterans Kate Dobson and Kate Foster will ensure they poll well.
Goal shooter Carley Thomas has been the standout goaler this season and her athleticism should have caught the umpires’ attention.
Port Fairy’s climb up the ladder from bottom to third at the end of round 18 could be just what veteran Nicole Dwyer needs to claim her first league best and fairest. She has enjoyed a consistent year and, along with coach Emma O’Keeffe, should poll well given the number of games the Seagulls won.
North Warrnambool Eagles have plenty of players who will poll votes, such as centre Sophie Barr and goal attack Annie Blackburn. But they might have missed too many games with other commitments to take the title.
Cobden coach Maddie Smedts will enter the count as one of the favourites, having enjoyed a standout season with the Bombers.
Portland’s hopes might rest with goal attack Lauren Hockley, while Warrnambool defender Sarah O’Keeffe could be the Blues’ best hope after a good season.
South Warrnambool coach Leah Kermeen should be her side’s leader, while Hamilton Kangaroos’ Hayley Huf was impressive at goal attack for the league newcomer.