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Sandra O'Sullivan to play 500th game for Seymour

Netballer to create Lions history on Saturday.

CHALPAT SONTI June 25, 2014 3:58am

Sandra O'Sullivan.


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It really is hard to get your head around a 500-game netball career, but if anyone can it’s Sandra O’Sullivan.

The Seymour stalwart will achieve the honour where it all started when she takes the Kings Park court for the B-reserve side against Rochester on Saturday.

She will be the first person to have reached the milestone at the club.

Along the way there have been four children, the same number of best-and-fairests, three premierships, a brief ‘‘retirement’’, and of course that celebrated day in 2010 when she and sisters Veronica Hager and Ros Rutherford chalked up 1000 games between them for the Lions.

But the path to 500 started as a 16-year-old in 1987, when the-then Sandra Roscoe turned out for the B-grade side.

Back then there was no age-group or B-reserve netball in the Goulburn Valley Netball League and O’Sullivan was coming off a junior netball background.

‘‘I started in the under-8s or under-10s at (Seymour East Primary School) when we played Saturday mornings at Kings Park,’’ she said.

‘‘It just went on from there. When I started seeing (future husband Gerard) he was playing footy, so I thought I’d give the footy club a run. We played on one of the courts at Kings Park and when there wasn’t any room we used to play behind the old shire office (where The Seymour Club is now).’’

She also followed Veronica to the Lions, but has played more with Ros as O’Sullivan’s career has largely been in the B-grade side.

There have been a few brief A-grade stints, including when she was pregnant with eldest daughter Lyndel and in an elimination final in 2011 when the three sisters played together for the first and only time.

‘‘I was never really cut out for that hard stuff in A-grade,’’ she said.

‘‘B-grade was hard enough. It’s definitely a different range from B-reserve to A-grade.’’

Along the way she has seen an improved standard in all grades.

‘‘It’s full on now with training and drills,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s all the outside stuff that comes with playing on Saturdays, you actually have to be qualified and doing courses to coach.’’

Including someone as experienced as O’Sullivan. She has combined coaching with playing this season and only last week passed a coaching course.

‘‘You also used to play just four 10-minute quarters but now it’s for a full hour, there are players from Melbourne and lots of other things you didn’t use to have in a country netball league.

‘‘(Ash Chapman and Kath Knott) have really improved us out of sight. It is exciting for them, too, because they all put in the hard yards.’’

O’Sullivan has also put in plenty off the court, too, stepping up her involvement when Gerard became club president in 2012 and is now canteen manager.

‘‘It’s not that hard, I’ve got plenty of helpers, but those are the things you’ve got to do to keep everything running smoothly,’’ she said.

There was also the ‘‘year off’’ from playing in 2012, the first real season she didn’t play, but she soon got bored of watching from the sidelines and made a comeback.

Perhaps forgotten with the passing of time now was that in 1995, she actually went to play briefly at Broadford where Gerard and his brother Matt had gone to play football and Matt’s wife Pauline was coaching the netball team.

And that family connection is probably what defines the O’Sullivans in relation to the club. Pauline of course is one of the best netballers produced in Seymour, while O’Sullivan’s sisters have been part of the furniture also.

Then there’s the new generation, including her daughters Lyndel, Ellie and Meg. Lyndel has already passed the 100-game milestone and Ellie, who has been a revelation in A-grade this year, is past 50.

Sandra and Lyndel have been playing a fair bit together this season, and the progress of her daughters and nieces is as good a reason as any to keep going.

‘‘It’s good playing with them,’’ she said.

‘‘They’re a fair bit quicker than me and it’s sometimes funny when they call out ‘Mum’ on the court, but they’re good kids, they listen and they’re still willing to learn. Meg’s probably the one more in it for fun.

‘‘I’ve also got plenty of good friends around me there and they all love it. I just used to rock up and play, but the girls, though they can still show up, they’ve also got plenty of jobs to do and we call on them first to do them. If they can’t, I go to the nieces.’’

It’s no surprise O’Sullivan rates the three premierships as her career highlight, and reckons Lyndel snuck one in as well as Sandra was pregnant with her at the time of the 1993 flag.

There haven’t been any titles since, which makes her appreciate how hard it is — and how netball in small country towns tends to be a cyclical thing.

And what of Saturday’s milestone? Lyndel will be on the court with her and probably sister Ros will play in it after overcoming injury, but O’Sullivan is typically low-key.

‘‘It’s exciting, but I don’t really want too much hype about it,’’ she said.

‘‘Every milestone game I’ve had I reckon we’ve been belted in. We usually end up playing the Swans, so hopefully it might change this time.’’

So what next — apart from another flag, which is not out of the question with the B-reserve side?

‘‘I don’t know, I think this year might be it, but at this time of year it’s hard to get motivated for next year. When spring comes along and the weather’s better, it might be a different story.’’

See a year-by-year breakdown in this week’s Telegraph.

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