Port Fairy defender Carly Watson takes out HFNL open grade best and fairest

BEST OF THE BEST: Port Fairy goal defence Carly Watson won the HFNL open grade best and fairest in a thrilling vote count. Picture: Vicky Hughson

BEST OF THE BEST: Port Fairy goal defence Carly Watson won the HFNL open grade best and fairest in a thrilling vote count. Picture: Vicky Hughson

AGE – young or old – is no barrier when it comes to winning the Hampden open grade best and fairest award.

Port Fairy’s youngest team member Carly Watson polled 27 votes to take out the league’s top individual honour in a thrilling count on Sunday, pipping Koroit defender Kasey Owen (25 votes) with a best-on-court performance in the final round.

Cobden recruit Jess Wheadon was third with 24 votes and Camperdown veteran Tracey Baker fourth with 22 in a count that came down down to the final game.

Watson, who is still only 17 years old, said it was thanks to mum Julie that she was able to get to training and games, given she is too young to drive.

The emerging star stamped herself as one of the top defenders going around with the best and fairest win, marking a successful transition to her preferred position goal defence this year.

“I actually played goal attack for the past two years; it was only this year I played the majority of the year in goal defence,” she said.

“I played goal defence in my 17s (17 and under) and I like it just as my preferred position.”

A nervous Watson took the lead about halfway through, but jostled for prime position with Owen, Wheadon, Baker and Warrnambool’s Sarah O’Keefe in a count that was as even and hard to call as the season itself.

Owen led by a vote going into the last round, but neither she, Baker nor Wheadon polled another vote.

Watson felt sheer elation and Port Fairy tables erupted as her name popped up on the screen with three written beside it.

“It was a thrill. I didn’t expect it – it came down to the last round and …. I knew it had to be two or more (votes) to get me over the line,” Watson said.

“It was just a shock. I think we had a very strong team and I thought the votes would be very even among the team.

“But I was happy with my season overall.”

Watson said she was thriving under Port Fairy first-year coach Megan Titmus who, as a defender herself, had been a valuable source of knowledge and advice for her this season.

She also credited fellow defenders Emma Sommerville and Alicia Moloney who “made my job a lot easier” in the back third of the court.

HFNL open grade best and fairest winner Carly Watson from Port Fairy

Now the talented teen, who made her senior netball debut in 2013, will turn her attention to preparing for her first open grade grand final.

Port Fairy set to take on Camperdown in the decider on Saturday.

The Seagulls triumphed over a spirited Koroit by seven goals in the preliminary final.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet – we’ve got away with the win yesterday and we’ll just take each day as it comes,” Watson said.

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