Hallinan headlines Thunderbirds awards sweep

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Mid-courter Renae Hallinan has capped off a remarkable year by winning the coveted Liz Ellis Diamond and International Player of the Year at the Australian Netball Awards on Sunday on the Gold Coast.

The specialist wing defence has been instrumental in the success of the Australian Diamonds and Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2013 with consistent performances at both an international and domestic level.

The 27-year-old played every game this season, including all 15 games in the Thunderbirds premiership season and ten international Tests, which included every quarter of Diamonds Constellation Cup winning series.

Hallinan, who won the 2009 Australian International Player of the Year in her debut year before missing 2011 world championship selection, becomes the sixth player to win the highest individual honour in as many years.

“I can’t believe that I would win an award like this amongst a group of girls like this in the Diamonds team, I’m overwhelmed, thrilled and very proud when you consider the previous players that have won this award,” Hallinan said.

“This means the absolute world to me because I run out each week to represent either my state or country so being rewarded like this is overwhelming.

“If twelve months ago when I missed out on Australia selection you said to me that I would be where I am now, I would have laughed; I’m still trying to pinch myself.

“An award like this is not what I play for but it’s really lovely that my peers have voted for me, I just love running out there each week playing the game that I love.”

The Liz Ellis Diamond recognises the player who receives the most votes for outstanding achievement in both the international arena and the ANZ Championship each year. Players, selectors and media vote on the award, named after former Australian captain and most capped Australian player of all time, Liz Ellis.

Hallinan becomes the third Thunderbird to win the Liz Ellis Diamond, following in the footsteps of inaugural winner Mo’onia Gerrard in 2010 and former captain Natalie von Bertouch in 2010.

“Those couple of years out of the Australia team really hurt but her resilience to address the areas that she needed to and get herself back in to the team, that’s an amazing story and she’s someone that people should look up to,” Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said.

Thunderbirds teammate Erin Bell was honoured with the Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year after a stellar season – becoming the first player in the league’s history to win three trans-Tasman premierships.

Bell, who finished the season with a career high 299 goals, was named the 2013 ANZ Championship Grand Final Most Valuable Player in the Thunderbirds thrilling victory over the Queensland Firebirds.

Adelaide’s clean sweep of the awards was rounded out with Jane Woodlands-Thompson named the 2013 Australian Sports Commission Coach of the Year.

Diamonds captain Laura Geitz was named New Ideas Australia’s Favourite Diamond, Sharon Kelly was named Umpire of the Year award and Paige Hadley was named Australian 21/U Player of the Year, capping off a memorable week for the international debutant.

Award winners:

Liz Ellis Diamond – Renae Hallinan

Coles International Player of the Year – Renae Hallinan

Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year – Erin Bell

New Idea Australia’s Favourite Diamond – Laura Geitz

Australian Sports Commission Coach of the Year – Jane Woodlands-Thompson

Umpire of the Year – Sharon Kelly

Australian 21/U Player of the Year – Paige Hadley