The torch of Marie Little OAM’s legacy shone brightly at the national netball tournament for athletes with an intellectual disability named in her honour where New South Wales emerged with a clean sweep after a full day of matches against South Australia and Victoria.
New South Wales showed its strong form from the first match on Saturday evening where it beat the South Australian Rubies by 15 goals. That dominance continued through to the Grand Final on Sunday afternoon where NSW beat the Rubies 16-9 to claim the title for the first time.
Despite the Rubies’ home court advantage, accurate shooting, strong defence and support from the stands, New South Wales delivered a skilled performance with many returning players from the 2014 side keen to improve on their previous Grand Final performance.
“They were determined to go one better after last year’s loss,” NSW coach Jenny O’Keefe said. “Going into the final the girls were a little flat after losing one of their team members during the day to injury. They decided that they really wanted to win for her, so they dug deep and pushed through for the win.”
Under O’Keefe’s leadership, the New South Wales team have steadily improved its performance over the three years of the Marie Little OAM Shield – starting with third in 2013, progressing to runners-up in 2014 and finally winning the tournament this year.
This was the first year that the Marie Little OAM Shield has been played since Marie passed away on the evening of the tournament in 2014. Players, parents and carers of all three competing teams gathered for a dinner the night before the tournament, where a letter from Della Thilthorpe, Marie’s daughter, thanked the teams and the netball community for their support.
“To the netball community, Mum would be so happy to see the Marie Little OAM Shield continue to evolve. The hard work of so many people from the very early days to where it is now, is to be acknowledged and applauded,” she wrote.
“All three teams have greatly improved since the first year of this competition, as shown by New South Wales’ win today. It’s terrific to see every player develop from year to year and to see the support continue to grow from across Australia for the growth in competitions and opportunities for netball players with an intellectual disability,” Symons said.
“In partnership with AusRapid, we’ll continue to work towards our ultimate aim of having every state and territory represented at the Marie Little OAM Shield.”