By Matt Fotia
In 2017 Richmond star Dustin Martin lit up the AFL with an all conquering season which saw the powerful midfielder claim the Brownlow Medal, the Norm Smith Medal and most importantly for the vocal Tiger Army, a Premiership Medal.
Fast forward two years and Beaconsfield netballer Ciara Nelson has repeated his feat.
And whilst her success came at a lower level then the king of the ‘don’t argue’, that doesn’t mean it is any less impressive, given the setbacks that she faced along the way.
Nelson’s struggles have been well documented, but such is their enormity they cannot be skipped over.
Whilst playing Netball in 2016 Nelson fell. Whilst at first she nothing much was thought of it – bar the usual worries – persistent struggles and symptoms led to scans, which revealed a brain tumour. To make matters worse Nelson was initially told that the tumour was inoperable.
Ciara and her family continued to seek options and found help in the shape of controversial surgeon Charlie Teo, who removed the tumour in 2018. As a side effect of the surgery Ciara’s vision was impaired, which now sees her wear glasses. She was told she wouldn’t play Netball again.
That was March 2018.
By July 2018 Ciara was ready to return to the court for her beloved Beaconsfield, in what she recalls as a surreal experience.
“It was pretty weird (being allowed to play) because they told me I wasn’t going to be able to play ever again (five months earlier) and then before I knew it they’d cleared me,”
“We were playing Doveton and I played just a quarter but I was bit scared and nervous, I wasn’t used to wearing glasses and had to really think through stuff that I’d never had to before, like catching the ball, landing and throwing the ball,”
“But my teammates were really good and adjusted to me, because my thought processes and reactions we’re a bit slower, so they would take the pace off their passes and stuff to adjust to my weaknesses.”
As the 2018 season continued Ciara began to edge closer and closer to her best and finished the year with a C Grade premiership. But it wasn’t until the beginning of 2019 that she finally felt she was (almost) back to her best.
“I only just got back to normal at the start of this year,”
“We won the flag in 2018, but it wasn’t til this pre-season that I really started playing close to what I used too.”
The all conquering Goal Defence led the Beaconsfield B Grade side into the inaugural Outer East season and the Eagles performed strongly, finishing the Home and Away season in second place behind a strong Olinda Ferny Creek outfit, mirroring the A Grade ladder.
A win against Woori Yallock in the Qualifying Final was followed by a four goal loss to the Bloods in the Semi Final, before Beaconsfield scraped home by just one goal against Narre Warren in the Preliminary Final to set up another clash with Olinda Ferny Creek.
The Eagles went in as underdogs, but came out emphatic winners, smashing Olinda Ferny Creek by 15 goals, seeing Ciara add two more medals to her 2019 collection, after she’d shared the Premier Division B Grade Medal with Wandin’s Madison Rouget.
“We knew we were lucky to be there (the Grand Final) and were just going in thinking about giving 100%,”
“We worked on a few things at training and just put it out on the court and it clicked.”
Like Dusty, Ciara’s favourite medal is her Premiership one, but she appreciates the enormity of her achievements, especially given where she was under two years ago.
“It’s an amazing turnaround, you know everyone has been amazing helping me get back to normal,”
“Playing as close to normal netball is a really good feeling and getting those awards (Best and Fairest and Best on Court) are nice, but obviously the Premiership is the best.”
So for 2020. Ciara would love to get back into the Eagles A Grade outfit and play alongside her sister Rylee as they look to better their Preliminary Final exit, but knows she has work cut out to break into that strong side.
To be fair though, she’s proven people wrong before.
“I don’t know if I’ll make it into our A Grade side, especially with the defenders that we’ve got up there, but you know, never say never,”
“I’ve done plenty of things that I shouldn’t have, so I’ll try my hardest to get back.”