The prodigal sharpshooter says she’s coming back

By David Chapman

DAVID CHAPMAN solves the mystery of that very tall space Echuca netball club had to fill in the goal circle after its stunning last-gasp 2018 A-grade grand final victory

THE TOWERING PRESENCE of Sheridan Townrow may be absent from under the netball ring this season but Echuca fans take heart — she will be back.

Sheridan sees herself as part of the bigger picture — in everything she does.

The 25-year-old nurse has tasted individual and team success on the netball court but it’s not the individual accolades that make her proud, rather her role in instilling a positive vibe in others.

Her selfless nature was never more evident than last year when she was a part of Echuca’s first Goulburn Valley League A-grade netball premiership in 22 years.

Sheridan was the goal shooter and named best-on-court in the grand final after the heart-stopping one-goal win over the previously undefeated Shepparton Bears.

But her humble nature has her deflecting any praise to her teammates.

"It is an honour but being goal shooter you’re going to look good. Everybody (on the team) contributes to that," she said.

"The (premiership) win is definitely better (than the best-on-court award)."

Immediately after last year’s grand final Sheridan told local media there were a lot of people on and around the court who "deserve this premiership".

"I look around here and there is someone over there who played 20 years and never won one in A-grade and someone over there who played 30 years and has never won one and has been there the whole time, it’s unreal," she said at the time.

However, it was not Sheridan’s first grand final.

"We played in the 2015 grand final and got smashed by Seymour," she said.

However, the experience proved beneficial going into last year’s decider.

"Five of us played in that grand final in 2015 and it was the first time Echuca A-grade had been in one for about 10 years," Sheridan recalled.

"So against Seymour we were so excited.

"Last year everyone was pretty cool, calm and collected leading into the grand final.

"There was no pressure on us because no one expected us to win."

It’s only been seven months but memories of the day seem to whirl around.

"It was a very fast and physical game and we went goal for goal," Sheridan said.

"We were up a little bit and they pegged us back.

"At the start of the fourth quarter, (Echuca co-captain) Holly (Butler) and her player hit the deck hard.

"Holly got up but the other girl was a little frazzled and it proved a real turning point.

"Halfway through the fourth quarter we thought ‘we could win this’."

Sheridan got the chance to reflect on the 2018 premiership success when she returned to Echuca in April to watch Holly Butler play her 173rd game for the Murray Bombers, giving her the record for most A-grade games at the club.

"We were laughing about how we started last season," Sheridan said.

"Our first game against Tatura we were pretty shabby.

"We were down by 10 goals at one stage and we ended up winning by one.

"It goes to show that if you’re not that good at the start of the season it’s no drama at all because you can build throughout the year."

Sheridan started her netball career in the Echuca and District Netball Association, shortly after her family moved to Echuca from Melbourne while she was still in primary school.

"It was a strong competition when I started and I played there until I was 17," she said.

"I was a top age under 17 player when I joined Echuca."

Family connections saw her join Echuca where her uncle Ash Byrne had already cemented his place in Murray Bomber folklore as the coach of the 2001 football premiership side.

Sheridan’s older sister also played there and with her parents on the committee it was the obvious path.

Sheridan proved an instant hit in bottle green.

She played just five games in the under 17s before her talents saw her fast-tracked into A-grade.

She was a regular in the side until 2016 when she moved to Darwin for two years where she worked in emergency departments.

It proved a real eye-opener.

"There was a lot of trauma, a lot domestic violence," she said. "It was pretty different to Echuca."

While there, she and a group of friends headed overseas for four months, travelling through the US and Central America in 2017.

In 2018 Sheridan moved back to Melbourne but was keen to recommit to Echuca netball.

But balancing her work in emergency/surgical nursing while making a six-hour round trip on weekends to play netball was not an issue for Sheridan.

"I was very lucky. Gina (Pearson, A-grade netball coach) was amazing and Sharon Henson the assistant coach was unreal.

"The girls I played with were coming back. Holly Butler and Tamara Nicholls were coming back from having babies and Zara (Pearson) I played all my junior netball and basketball with.

"The only ones I hadn’t played with before were the young ones like Bridget Byrne, Meg Rohde and Claudia Mawson, who was 16.

"So I was already good friends with a lot of the players and the younger ones were really supportive."

But Sheridan is not playing netball this year.

"I’m off to Europe after June and as a result would miss a fair chunk of the season," she said.

Returning home to watch Echuca play is something she loves but finds it tough being on the sidelines.

However, Sheridan again sees the bigger picture.

She would rather see players come through and be given the chance rather than play the odd game herself and force someone out of the side.

"It wouldn’t really be fair. It would mean Echuca wouldn’t be able to bring girls through.

"Claudia Mawson is outstanding and is improving all the time and so is Bridget, and they all need court time.

"I’ll be back at Echuca at some point.

"All my family are there, and friends I’ve grown up with around the club, so it’s very easy to go home."