A TEAM of Ballarat netballers have turned grief into motivation by emerging victorious at the Murrun Dhelk Indigenous Football and Netball Carnival in Bendigo.
Gina's Dream Team scored wins in divisions one and three of the carnival, which was played for the second consecutive year at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.
The team is named in honour of Gina Kickett, a former talented Ballarat netballer and mother of two, who died in 2008 as the result of an undiagnosed blood clot.
At the time of her death, the 27-year-old was in contention for selection in Ballarat's Victorian Netball League squad, then known as the Pride.
But her memory lives on through the city's entry in the annual indigenous football and netball carnival.
Just as Gina had during her five years of playing netball in Ballarat, after arriving with family from Western Australia in 2004, the Dream Team showed fierce determination and exceptional skill and courage to win dual titles in Bendigo.
It was a proud moment for Gina' mother Belinda Hayden, who was part of the division three line-up's thrilling 24-21 win over fellow Ballarat outfit Team Beyond Blue.
Cheering from the sidelines were her grandchildren and Gina's children Alkira and Mingara.
Hayden said she was touched to see so many people striving to preserve Gina's legacy by commiting to the team each year since 2009.
"There's a lot friends, they're not really blood related, but they call me aunty," she said.
"There's one that I've coached through netball juniors, and there's some indigenous school girls I used to coach and have committed to giving back to me.
"The love and respect I get from them is great."
Gina's Dream Team has had a good degree of success over the years at the carnival.
It would be a struggle to find anyone who is a bigger rap for the carnival than Hayden.
"We all look forward to it each and every year," she said.
"It's a community event, it's an annual event, we just love it.
"It's definitely well run; there's a few things that need to be tweaked, but its definitely well run."
Hayden, who is in her 50s and was one of the eldest competitors last weekend, said there was an extra special reason to look forward to next year's carnival and not just because it was likely to be her last.
"My granddaughter (Alkira) is 11 and I am going to play the first game she plays and then I'm going to retire," she said.
"She plays netball now, so hopefully the next carnival we get to play together and I can hang my boots up.
"It's time for me to start stepping and giving the young girls a chance to step up."
Gina's Dream Team clinched the division one championship with a 28-14 win over Rumbulara.