WNA - After sifting through the history books and calculating the stats it was confirmed this week that Megan Shea's 450th match of netball last Saturday places her well out on top as the games' record holder at the Ararat Football-Netball Club.
Former coach and long time mentor Donna Spalding best summed up Shea's amazing record, which includes five league best and fairest medals, eight premierships and countless other grand final appearances.
"If Megan had been a footballer she would be a living legend," Spalding said.
"For the netballers she is our treasure and I believe she could easily make it to 500 come on Megan it is only a couple more seasons!
"It is probably a little bit emotional for me, because I have coached Megan for more than 15 years and when you watch someone come to the club as a junior and see them develop into an outstanding netballer it's very rewarding."
Shea has always been focused on getting the best out of herself and the goal shooter told The Ararat Advertiser this week reaching the 450th milestone felt very rewarding.
"I am pretty stoked, especially for (the record) to be football and netball combined," Shea said.
“It puts me with good friends like Darren Bahl and Tim (husband) also has a record with his senior games as well, so it is good to be up there with good friends.
“I am hoping it will inspire somebody else in the club to hang around and try and achieve that milestone too.”
Shea joined the Ararat Football-Netball Club in 1987 after being invited to train by her then basketball coach Spalding.
She spent two seasons in the under 16s, before moving into B grade in 1989 and made her A grade debut the following year.
After cementing her spot in the A grade line-up permanently in 1992 she played at the highest level in the Wimmera for 14 straight seasons until taking maternity leave in 2007. She returned in 2008 and has continued through to the present.
“The coaching has kept me here, trying to better my skills and I am a very competitive person so I enjoy that competitiveness that this league offers,” Shea said.
“I played netball in Ballarat while I was at uni during the week, but still travelled back on weekends and I found the standard here was just as good, if not better.
“It has given me the chance to play in interleague and representative sides — I have always had an opportunity to play good netball so I have never found the need to go anywhere else.”
Shea said in her mid to late 20s she also spent two years playing with the Central Highlands under guidance of Robyn Jefferies who was coach of the VicCountry team.
“I learnt a lot there and during that time with VicCountry I had one of the most amazing opportunities of a weekend camp in Melbourne at the Vic Institute of Sport. During the camp we played against the national Fijian side that was coached by (renowned netball identity) Julie Hoornweg, who has also coached the Melbourne Vixens.
“When I played in the Wimmera rep side coached by Julie Burke, I don’t know what her ties were but Julie Hoornweg came up and coached us then too in the lead up to a grand final for Mable Cup and then sat on our bench for that grand final, which we won, so I’ve been lucky to be around some very good coaches and had experiences like that.
“That camp, I got a lot out of it, because it wasn’t only about the game but about mental preparation, sport psychology, nutrition — I wish everyone had that opportunity.”
Closer to home Shea said Spalding has been the major influence on her netball career.
“I still to this day try and tune into her voice for support around the court, particularly in the big games.
“I was fortunate enough to play with her early on, it was just unfortunate that couldn’t continue and she had to retire because of her knees, but it is fantastic that she has hung around the club as a coach.
“I guess Gayle Dadswell as well, especially when I made the transition from juniors to seniors, she was also a big influence.”
While she doesn’t like to take individual credit, Shea’s record of five Heather Hatcher medals — the first being in 1995 and the last being 2012 — is an unprecedented achievement.
Shea said playing netball wasn’t about personal awards, instead hitting the court with her best friends is what has kept her going.
“I don’t like the personal accolade, it is lovely to receive them, but there are so many people that make you look good on the court,” she said.
“Jakki (Gibson) is unreal, she creates space in the ring for me, and Westy (Olivia West) and Kate (Bligh) pass so spot on to you that they set you up.
“You don’t realise how important those girls are until you do put someone different in there and how you’ve got to adjust your game and teach people.
“Having said that it is exciting to have a group of young kids coming through at the moment, because we are obviously not going to be together for much longer and we are trying to set them up.
“I am hoping they are going to want to be like us and stay around too.
“I am just excited to be here and it is a really exciting buzz around the club. It is not just the netball club, it is the Ararat Football-Netball Club that I am proud to play with.
“I am just so happy to see the senior footballers that have stuck around through the lull doing well and the junior guys that have come through. Just to watch the seniors play, it is exciting times and you’ve also got the facility coming along — I am glad I am still here to be part of it all.”
Shea is the very definition of loyalty.
The mother of three and Marian College teacher said if there was one thing that she could change during her time in the game it would be the unsportsmanship that can sometimes be seen in players and those who don’t commit to the club.
“They are two things that really disappointment me when I see it,” she said.
“Players, whether they are footballers or netballers, that blow in and blow out because it is an out of age year or for whatever reason.
“They are not going to fall in love with our club and put into it, they just want to take something out of the club for their own personal benefit and that gets my back up.”
Once again Spalding finds the best way to sum up one of the Ararat Rats’ most endearing servants.
“Megan is a coach’s delight and through her dedication she had been an inspirational role model to others,” she said
“I am really glad that this young lanky lass came to the Ararat Football-Netball Club all those years ago.
“This new club record will be hard to beat and personally I hope it isn’t, because Megan deserves to be rewarded for all her hard work.”