Dannielle Sawyer is red and black through and through,
ALWAYS loyal, an inspiration to team-mates, a wonderful person and the backbone of the White Hills Football Netball Club.
These are just some of the glowing testaments to Dannielle Sawyer given by some of those closest to the dual A-grade Premiership star - her Demons club-mates.
They come on the eve of an amazing milestone for the two-time A-grade Club Best and Fairest winner and regular Inter-league representative, who will play her 350th game for her beloved 'Hillies' on Good Friday against Mount Pleasant.
Not surprisingly for someone who has dedicated most of her life to netball and White Hills, Sawyer is approaching her milestone with the same excitement and energy as she did back on the day she played her first game in the 17-and-under grade back in 1999.
In that time she has only ever missed one season due to injury.
Her career in the HDFNL has been marked by remarkable versatility, with the 32-yer-old having lined up at every position on the court at some point, albeit her heart lays in defence.
Adored by team-mates and universally respected by her opponents, Sawyer offers two simple words to describe her unwavering devotion to the club and cause: "It's home."
"I have made a lot of lifelong friends here because I have been here such a long time .... 20 years is a long time," she said.
"I remember I wanted to come here the year before when I was in primary school, but my mum and dad (Deb and Bob) didn't want me to come in at the league level, so they made me wait until I was in year 7."
Proof of her trademark loyalty, Sawyer has always resisted the many offers along the journey to join the BFNL league and other clubs.
"My family is here and my friends are here, and I have always been brought up to be loyal," she said.
"I honestly wouldn't even think about leaving, it's home for me ... it's what I know".
"That might sound silly, I probably could have played some better league netball, but I have always felt at home here and that's why I have stayed."
My family is here and my friends are here, and I have always been brought up to be loyal. I honestly wouldn't even think about leaving, it's home for me.- Dannielle Sawyer
Her remarkable resume includes six premierships in total - two each in A-grade, A-reserve and C-grade - five club best and fairest awards, including two in A-grade and one in A-reserve, six-times a best and fairest runner-up, and two league C-grade best and fairest awards in 2002 and 2003.
She has also represented the Heathcote District Netball League 10 times, including last year in a win against Geelong District, and been a permanent fixture on the lub's Committee, including 12 years as treasurer, publicity officer and canteen coordinator.
From a long list of opponents over the years, Sawyer nominated Ebony Heer, from the days when Broadford was in the league, former Mount Pleasant premiership goal shooter and WNBL star Gabe Richards, and Colbinabbin defender/midcourter Holly Guerra as the toughest.
As a mainstay at a club that has enjoyed so much success across the grades in her 20 seasons, she has also had 'the privilege' to play alongside some of the league's highest quality players.
"(Current coach) Loz (Lauren Bowles) is simply one of the best players I have played with - she is a standout," Sawyer said.
"A natural talent and just such a leader - I'm lucky to have had that opportunity to play with her".
"We definitely play to win, but Loz is adamant that there needs to be a fun element to netball, and we have a very close-knit group of girls, who always come together after a game, or on Thursday nights, or outside of training. That makes everything so easy."
Among all the accolades and highlights from her two-decades-long career - individual and team - Sawyer said there was one which stood above all else; last season's premiership win against long-standing rival Colbinabbin.
"Last year was the highlight of my netball career by a mile," she said.
"I have had a lot of good moments here, some premierships and best and fairests, but last year was the year I enjoyed the most since I've been here".
"It was easy to play with those girls and being eight years since the last premiership and the only remaining player from that team, it felt like such a long time coming".
"And to win in such an amazing game - by two goals - it was awesome."
With the Demons having lost none of their 2018 premiership line-up and easily accounting for Lockington Bamawm United in their opening round clash a fortnight ago, back-to-back flags are a real prospect for Sawyer and her team-mates.
The class defender is the second White Hills netballer to reach 350 games behind Lisa Argus.
Top three in the league's Esther Cheatley Medal in the last two seasons, goal keeper Anna-Grace Close and Sawyer form two-thirds of arguably the HDFNL's top defence.
Close, who joined the Demons in 2017 following a Horsham District League premiership with Harrow-Balmoral in 2016 - her third with the Southern Roos - said it did not take long for the pair to strike up an amazing friendship that has only gotten stronger over time.
"From the day I arrived she has always been such a great support to me and such a great friend," she said.
"I have always just admired her commitment to the club. She puts in a 110 per cent every week, turns up and is on so many different committees".
"She lives and breathes White Hills, which is truly admirable. She is fantastic around the club - always at social events".
"She has also been such a leader for me. I work in defence with her and every week she gives the same 100 per cent and is very easy to play with and she is still playing at an amazing level".
"Hopefully after last season, the three of us down in defence can only go on to better things."
HDFNL operations manager Jan Mannes offered her congratulations on behalf of everyone involved in the League.
"Three hundred and fifty games is a remarkable career," she said.
"(The league) also wants to thank you for your support for our inter-league program, especially as a player in the senior team and as an umpire in our junior divisions."
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