By Lance Jenkinson
When City West Falcons goal defence Mel Oloamanu walks your way on a netball court, you know you are in for a hard game.
Pity the opponent who faced the energetic Oloamanu in the Victorian Netball League 19-and-under grand final at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night.
Oloamanu helped the Falcons to a 53-41 win over Peninsula Waves in the season decider, taking out the player of the match award in the process.
“It felt like a dream, winning the game,” Oloamanu said. “When they called my name [for player of the match], I was in shock, I was speechless.”
Oloamanu, 16, is one of the brightest young prospects in Australian netball.
She represented Victoria at under-17 level for the first time this year.
The Westside Saints-developed youngster starred for the Big V during her 15-and-under years, so the step up was a natural progression.
The year 10 Melton Secondary College student was part of the Victorian team that took out fourth place at the under-17 nationals, but she will get the chance to atone next season.
By far the biggest accomplishment for Oloamanu came on the international stage as a co-captain of the Australian under-16 netball team.
Pulling on the green and gold for the first time this year is something she will never forget.
The former Hoppers Crossing junior cherished every moment, despite the sour ending – a one-goal loss to arch-rivals New Zealand in the final.
“The first time I represented Australia, it was such an honour,” Oloamanu said. “It was just an amazing experience to go out there and represent this country.
“Even though we won silver, I reckon the memories are gold.”
Oloamanu was initially uncertain about taking on the co-captaincy of Australia.
“At first, I was a bit nervous taking responsibility and I thought it would put pressure on me,” Oloamanu said.
“With the help of my two co-captains, it just helped me a lot. We made sure we brought confidence to the team and everything was in place. It was just amazing.”
Oloamanu, who idolises English netballer Geva Mentor, grabbed the chance to debut for City West Falcons in the top-flight VNL championship.
Despite being half the age of some of the opposition, Oloamanu performed strongly in limited time on court.
“I was so nervous getting on to court, my knees were shaking,” Oloamanu said.
“Once I was out there, I think I did perform well, but it was because of the help of the other girls on the court.
“They were encouraging me to go for every ball and help. They gave me so much confidence out there on court.”
Oloamanu, a skilled defender with strong leadership qualities, has set a goal of earning a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport.
With spots limited, she knows she will need to keep performing at state and national level to be considered.
“That’s one of my biggest goals,” Oloamanu said.
“I will try to play my best for the state and everything and maybe get noticed, like every other player on court. It’s very hard to get those spots.”
Oloamanu is the August nominee for the Don Deeble Rising Star award.
The award, hosted by the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club and Star Weekly, recognises young athletes from the western suburbs who have achieved outstanding results at state and or national levels.
Oloamanu will receive $1000 and other prizes, donated by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, to assist her in achieving her sports goals.