ALLY O'Connor just can't bring herself to leave South Warrnambool.
For years it's made sense - logistically, at least - to swap red and white for colours of another club but her love of the Friendly Societies' Park-based club overrules all else.
O'Connor's standout season received the ultimate recognition on Saturday as the Geelong-based student clinched her first Hampden league open netball best and fairest.
The lifelong Rooster, who polled 22 votes, finished four higher than Warrnambool's Amy Wormald and 10 votes ahead of Cobden's Sophie Blain and Portland's Remy Grant, who tied for third.
An "overwhelmed" O'Connor paid homage to the club's influence on her career just moments after she was revealed as the season's best.
"This my seventh season in open alone and I've grown up in the Sunday comp, moving through to the Saturday comp and then into open," she told The Standard.
"My dad (Jock) has obviously been president, my brother and sister (Nick and Gen) have been well-involved in the football and netball side of things and my mum (Deanne) has helped around the club as well.
"I've gone to boarding school in Ballarat, I've been asked to play for teams up there - I live in Geelong, there's obviously teams there - but for some reason I just can't leave South. It's a massive testament to the club, I just love them so much."
O'Connor, a Rebekah Moroney Memorial medallist as a junior, has overcome her fair share of challenges.
She's making a habit of defying the odds. O'Connor returned from a two-year battle with an autoimmune disease - reactive arthritis - to make the Victorian Fury squad in 2021.
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"It's definitely one of the better feelings I've had (winning the best and fairest)," O'Connor said.
"I think since my injury everything I've has felt a lot sweeter. Making Fury this year, I felt like I had to work really hard for that.
"This award, it's a lot sweeter to know I was able to come back from basically a two-year stint off from netball... It makes me fairly proud."
O'Connor revealed the 2021 campaign was "one of my favourites" and paid tribute to her teammates - many of whom were still eligible for junior grades - and coaches Leesa Battistello and Will Jamison.
"To be in a side with those girls and those coaches was pretty amazing," she said.
O'Connor also thanked boyfriend Charlie Bradshaw for his role in her season.
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