FOR a netballer we have become accustomed to seeing make smart decisions on the court, Kelsey Meade believes one of the shrewdest choices she has made in life was joining BFNL club Sandhurst.
It's led to dozens of wonderful friendships, a lifetime of memories and a rich amount of team success.
While it's the love for team-mates and the team success that motivate her each netball season, the Sandhurst goaler enjoyed a milestone of a more personal nature against Strathfieldsaye on Good Friday.
Playing her 150th game, the two-time Dragons premiership star starred with 44 goals - 21 in the first half and 23 in the second - as the Dragons ran out 72-28 winners.
Importantly, for a team with rock-solid premiership aspirations, Sandhurst joined three other clubs at 2-0.
Despite a special day for herself, Meade - a member of the BFNL's netball team of the decade (2010-19) - was most rapt to have continued the Dragons' early-season momentum.
"We had a great start last week down in Gisborne and we really just wanted to keep lifting off that," she said.
"We are coming up against South and Kangaroo Flat the next two weeks, so we knew we couldn't drop the ball
"Missing Bec Smith as well, there was a few different faces in our line-up, but I thought we did very well.
"We put the foot down and just got it done and lifted each quarter. I'm very proud of the girls."
After missing the third-leg of the Dragons' premiership three-peat in 2019 while sidelined and a full-year in 2020 before an interrupted season in 2021 due to COVID, Meade is more than anything just relishing being back involved.
"The last three years for me I haven't played much netball, giving birth to two kids (India, 2 and Paddy, 1) and with COVID hitting, so it's been really nice getting to 150," she said.
"You celebrate these milestones, but I do just love being part of my team.
"At the end of the day it's all about the team and I couldn't come here and play every Saturday if it wasn't for my family and all the girls here as well, who understand the busyness at home.
"I am very grateful for my friends and family."
Meade, who moved to Bendigo with family when she was 13 and spent her first few years playing basketball, was lured to Sandhurst by friends.
She has never wanted to leave.
"There's the ease of playing in town and we have always had a great club culture and been really successful," Meade said.
"I've been lucky to play in many grand finals and I have always played with really great players.
"And, honestly, we are the best of friends and we have spent the best part of the five or six years building this team.
"We really enjoy each other's company so much.
"On Saturdays and at training during the week in the dead of winter, when it's pouring rain, you come because you just love to see the girls and you just love to be around each other.
"Everyone here is always encouraging each other and just wants the best for each other and the club too.
"We're very lucky at Sandhurst, but that's come with a lot of hard work too."
While it's only early - and with a few new serious contenders emerging in the likes of Castlemaine and South Bendigo - Meade rated the 2022 version of the Dragons as 'on-par' with the great premiership sides of 2017, '18 and '19.
"I'm so lucky to be part of it; we have been able to stick together with the same core group of girls in those years and we just seem to find another way to keep it going, keep improving and moving forward," the 29-year-old said.
"There is always stuff for us to improve on, even now.
"But judging by our first two games, it's going to be a really great season."
On Saturdays and at training during the week in the dead of winter, when it's pouring rain, you come because you just love to see the girls and you just love to be around each other.- Kelsey Meade
The Dragons' three-time premiership coach Tamara Gilchrist praised Meade as integral to the club's success and great culture.
"She is just such a ripping team-mate and part of the club," she said.
"To make it more special, she got best-on-court and performed so well.
"She had a cracking game (against the Storm); she shot the lights out when we needed her to without Bec Smith under there.
"Holly (Lockhart) and Kelsey did a great job."
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