Our most capped Comm Games representative

18th Commonwealth Games - Day 11: NetballAustralian netball legend Sharelle McMahon retired last year following a decorated career that included four Commonwealth Games campaigns and she has many memories from each.

Usually sportspeople nominate moments related to playing or competing in their chosen sport, but not McMahon.

She’s nominated the celebrations following Australia’s gold medal triumph at the 1998 Commonwealth Games Gold Medal in Kuala Lumpur – the first time that netball was played at the Games – as a particularly memorable moment.

“We had just won the gold medal and we went to the closing ceremony because, traditionally, netball’s medals are awarded on the last day. Most times it’s the last medal (of the competition),” McMahon said.

“We won the medal, had the awards ceremony which was just incredible and then went to the closing ceremony. On that occasion they let all of the teams come into the middle, out from the crowd and into the middle.

“It was just a time where we got to enjoy each other’s company, the rest of the Aussie team and meet people from different countries.

“That is one (memory) that really sticks out for me because it was just such a celebration on the back of what for me, was a pretty incredible experience.”

Although well-known in netball circles, McMahon wrote herself into national sporting folklore at the 2002 Games in Manchester when she shot the winning goal in the double extra time period as Australia went on to claim gold over New Zealand 57-55.

2002-goldWhile that Manchester gold medal match has been lauded by many as one of the best international netball games ever played, McMahon revealed she went into the final under an injury cloud.

“Nicole Richardson and I were in the team together, we both had ankle injuries leading into that final,” McMahon said.

“We spent a lot of our time with each other with our feet in buckets of ice water and we just wanted to do everything  we possibly could to get ourselves right to play (as) we only had a couple of days.

“We both got ourselves right to be back on the court and it was an interesting game, at times we had the ascendency, then New Zealand would come back, there’s so many memories from that game.”

Through much of her playing career, a formidable shooting combination was formed between McMahon and Eloise Southby. That pair were known for their almost sixth sense when it came to playing together inside the shooting circle.

It was Southby who spurred on her friend and teammate to play through the pain barrier in the Manchester final.

“When we came off the court and it was the full time of the normal game, we were even,” McMahon said.

19th Commonwealth Games - Day 11: Netball“My ankle had started to really give me grief at that stage and I remember walking off, Eloise was on the bench at that point. 

“I remember looking at her saying ‘I don’t think I can run anymore’ and she looked at me and said ‘You can do it!’ in her fiery way.”

A proud Victorian and more specifically country Victoria, Melbourne 2006 has a special place in McMahon’s heart.

It was first time she had played in a major tournament in her home state.

Heading into the Games, Australia lost inspirational captain Liz Ellis to a serious knee injury and suffered a huge loss to New Zealand. While the team regrouped, they went down 55-50 to the Silver Ferns in another Gold Medal match that went to extra time.

18th Commonwealth Games - Day 11: Netball“The (athlete) village was about 15 minutes away from where I live,” McMahon said.

“To play in that final at Hisense Arena in front of a massive crowd that was mostly cheering for us was incredible.

“For me that experience was an interesting one, I captained the team after Liz unfortunately did her knee so that was a massive challenge for me and it was a massive challenge for the team to kind of pull things back from a situation only a few months before that we lost to New Zealand by about 27 goals.

“That group did a lot of soul searching, a lot of really strong work on pulling together really tightly and we really had some chances in that final. It is a silver medal that I’m still very, very proud of.”

Another piece of Australian sporting history was created four years ago in Delhi when, for the first time, an athlete from a team sport was chosen to carry the flag into the opening ceremony.

AUST NETBALL-233200It was McMahon who given the honour in what would be her final Commonwealth Games appearance.

“It was a huge honour and it was just a really great acknowledgement of the team sport players because it’s not often that they get the recognition, it’s often individual athletes who have those,” McMahon said.

“I kind of felt like I was carrying it for the team sport players as well as netball and because the Melbourne Commonwealth Games (were the previous edition), we were the first country called out so I was the first one that walked out into the stadium.

“Very special memories of a challenging tournament in Delhi.”

Australia kicks off its 2014 Commonwealth Games campaign in Glasgow on Thursday against Wales at 10.30pm (AEST).

Follow the Australian Netball Team during the Commonwealth Games online on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aussiediamonds or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aussiediamonds