IT’S often said finals is a time when reputations are either made or broken.
Nothing could be truer for Colbinabbin young gun Mardi Ryan, who has stepped up in a big way for the reigning premiers this August and September.
The 17-year-old will be the youngest player on court in Saturday’s A-grade grand final between the Grasshoppers and long-time rival White Hills.
She has well and truly earned her spot, producing a series of consistent performances during the latter stages of the season in the playing absence of her coach and regular goal attack Liz Cobbledick.
Ryan, a Year 12 student at Rochester Secondary College, admitted grand final week had been anything but normal.
It started on a high following her HDFNL Rising Star award win at last Sunday’s league presentation.
From there the expected nerves have built, but Ryan says she has managed to keep things low key and has concentrated on just enjoying the moment.
The talented teen said she had given little consideration to the fact she would be the youngest player in Saturday’s game until it was mentioned to her, but insisted age was no barrier to performance.
“I don’t think about age, sometimes you just have to go out there and give it your all,” she said.
“Effort is usually what matters more than age.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing with the senior girls, they’ve been really supportive and helped give directions on the court and really encouraged me, so I don’t feel out of place.”
She rated Cobbledick, her partner in goals Lou Dupuy and midcourt ace Olivia McEvoy as the biggest influences on her netball at Colbinabbin.
Ryan, whose mother Kathy is a multiple premiership player with the Grasshoppers and father Bernie is the club’s president, is no stranger to grand finals.
She played in an under-17 premiership in 2016 and was part of the Grasshoppers’ runner-up effort last season against Elmore.
The young goal attack hopes to build on that record against the Demons.
“It’s going to be a dream – I never thought I’d play A-grade, but to be in a grand final team, it’s going to be amazing,” she said.
“You always have to go in with confidence you can win, otherwise you’re already starting from behind.
“We’ve beaten them once this season, but it’s going to be a tough game.
“We have so much depth on our bench, so that always gives us a chance at winning.”