When I was younger, when netball was mentioned, the first player that came to mind was Sharelle McMahon. Sharelle McMahon was, in my eyes and the eyes of so many others, one of the best, if not the best, netballer in the world. Her intensity, her speed, her agility were second to none. Sharelle was the player you could count on, the one who could shoot the winning goal in an extra time match, the one who could lift her team; a player who could change the game. Sharelle was the one everyone in my team wanted to play like and the one everyone wanted an autograph from after the games.
McMahon’s incredible netball career backed-up these attributes. McMahon captained both the Melbourne Phoenix in the old national league, the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, co-captained the Melbourne Vixens in the ANZ Championship alongside Bianca Chatfield, and captained the national team, the Australian Diamonds from 2008 to 2011. She claimed five Commonwealth Bank Trophy premierships with the Phoenix, an ANZ Championship premiership in 2009 with the Vixens, two Netball World Championships, one runners-up World Championship and one gold and two silver medals in the Commonwealth Games.
McMahon’s personal accolades are just as impressive. McMahon is one of only four players to play over 100 test matches for Australia, joining an elite club which includes Vicki Wilson, Liz Ellis and Catherine Cox, four MVPs of the Commonwealth Bank Trophy in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2007, four Melbourne Phoenix MVPs, the Australian netball team MVP in 2002-2003 and two Melbourne Vixens MVPs. McMahon was also named Victorian Female Athlete and Sportsperson of the Year in 2009, was named in the top 20 of the Top 100 Australian Sportswomen of All Time and had the honour of being flag bearer at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
McMahon was even set to contest her fourth Netball World Championship in 2011 until injury struck. She ruptured her Achilles in the 2011 ANZ Championship, ruling her out of World Championship contention.
It is not only McMahon’s on-court presence that I admire, but also the way she handled her injury and refused to let that injury define her career. McMahon was never one to give up and it was her fierce determination that saw her set to return the following season.
McMahon had recovered from her injury and was completing preseason training with the Vixens until she had another announcement that she would miss the 2012 season also, as she was pregnant with her first child.
McMahon geared up again for another comeback, with the netball court tempting her back to the world’s best netball league. McMahon set her sight on the 2013 ANZ Championship season, her determination seeing her be the first Australian netball player to the ANZ Championship after having a baby.
McMahon’s first appearance on the court in Melbourne at the Summer Challenge brought cheers from the crowd and the noise only grew as she shot her first goal. McMahon, although missing some of the season due to achilles soreness, played an integral part in the team when shooter Karyn Howarth was unable to play due to injury, and was crucial for the Vixens in the finals series.
Her last game, played in Melbourne in the preliminary final against the Queensland Firebirds, the same team she had injured her achilles in two years before, was one of her best comeback games. After the game an emotional McMahon waved to the crowd with son Xavier in her arms; a last goodbye for her passionate fans.
McMahon announced yesterday that she would be retiring from netball, saying the decision to retire was tough.
“I would not in any way call the decision that I’ve made easy. It has been tough,” McMahon said.
“There is still a massive draw for me to continue playing and to use what I’ve achieved even this year and off the back of that, go on next year.
“For a number of reasons the time is right to move on, as hard as that decision has been and as much as I’ll miss it.”
McMahon also mentioned her comeback from the Achilles injury and having her first baby, saying it has been a challenging year for many reasons.
“This year has been particularly challenging, getting my fitness back and juggling everything, juggling life, but I’m rapt I did it.
“From a personal point-of-view I was rapt to have achieved getting back on court after those two fairly major things.”
McMahon said that she will miss being with the girls in the team.
“That is what has often kept me coming back is those relationships and being a part of a group of women who strive to achieve a goal and work incredibly hard together and I will miss that, I really will miss that.”
Another amazing netball career may be coming to an end, but McMahon will be remembered as a true champion, a true legend of the game and of Australian sport, and an inspiration to many young netballers around the world.
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