Reflecting on her NFNL Section 1 best and fairest from the 2023 winter season, Heat star Tahnysha Salanoa says she is enjoying her netball more than ever.
Salanoa became the first Heat player to win a Section 1 best and fairest during this season’s Frank Rosbrook Medal event, where after a tight count, she picked up three votes in the final game to claim the award by a single vote ahead of North Heidelberg duo Olivia Ellis and Chloe Lambert.
It culminated what was a strong campaign for the goal attack, after she scored 309 goals in 13 matches for her side, which earned her a place in the 2023 Section 1 Team of the Year and saw her win Heat 1’s best and fairest.
Speaking to NFNL.org.au, she explained the shock she had when she found out she was receiving the award but added that it ranks as one of her most prestigious achievements.
“When [Heat President] Renee [Fitzgerald] called me and said that I needed to attend, I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“I’ve never won an award like that before overall. It’s definitely one that probably means the most to me.
“Out of all the things that I’ve got throughout my netball career, that is probably on top.”
Salanoa’s journey to Heat started in 2022 and came about following an illustrious state and international career.
Originating from New Zealand, the now 24-year-old moved to Australia in 2010 with her family and was introduced to netball straight away.
Her talent in the sport soon led her to great heights. She made the Under-15 state team before progressing into the elite senior environment and joining Victorian Netball League (VNL) side North East Blaze.
After a move to the City West Falcons, where she played in the championship division for several seasons, she would become a training partner, and eventually a squad member, with the Victorian Fury squad in 2017.
It would be the same year where Salanoa would represent Samoa in the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana.
Two years later, she would do so again, but this time with the senior squad at the 2019 Netball World Cup, which was highlighted by a player of the match performance against Singapore.
As the impacts of COVID came and went throughout the 2020-2021 seasons and following a hiatus from the sport all together, Salanoa would be introduced to Heat’s netball program after a friend asked her to fill in one Friday night.
From there, she would remain at the club, which the shooter says helped her enjoy netball again.
“[Heat] puts no pressure on me. I can just rock up every Friday, have some fun and play with some friends,” she said.
Heat would miss the Section 1 finals in 2023, falling one game short of Diamond Creek 1 to finish in the top four.
But while the results didn’t go their way during the latest winter campaign, Salanoa believes her side’s competitiveness was still on show in matches against tougher opposition, including eventual Section 1 premiers North Heidelberg.
“When I play North Heidelberg, I have three defenders on me throughout the whole game,” she said.
“But we’re competitive, we’re staying competitive. We give clubs like North Heidelberg a good go sometimes,” she says.
While Salanoa and her side are determined to return to finals action in 2024, she is just happy to be involved in a stress-free netball environment, re-iterating the joy she has had from being involved in Heat’s netball program over the last couple of years.
“I’m a lot happier. I just want to be happy and play netball,” she says.
“I don’t want to stress over anything. I’ve had stress throughout my years with netball. It’s time for fun.”