Only five minutes into her 2019 season, Gippsland Power and Casey Demons key-position player Shanara Notman thought her first year of state-league football was over.
The 18-year-old hyperextended her knee while attempting to mark in her debut NAB League Girls match in Round 1, initially fearing her draft season was over virtually before it had begun due to an ACL rupture.
However, the injury turned out to be just a knee strain and Notman returned less than two months later to play in the final three games of Gippsland’s campaign.
It enabled the Bunyip (Southern Gippsland) junior to show glimpses of her raw athleticism and ability to read the play from behind the ball, having recently decided to focus on football after giving up competing in basketball, netball, cricket and athletics.
Those exciting glimpses led to Notman representing Vic Country in the 2019 NAB AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships and then appearing for Casey three times late in the Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s season.
“Hyperextending my knee five minutes into Round 1 wasn’t a great start to the season,” Notman said at last week’s NAB AFLW Draft Combine. “I pushed myself really hard in the pre-season to get there and I thought the season was done, pretty much.
“Luckily I only strained my knee, but it was very scary. I was very emotional at the time, and I thought: ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do now,’ but I worked hard to get back into it and got back playing.”
It took Notman a half of football in her return match to stop thinking about whether she was going to hurt her knee again, but after letting go of the mental demons, she played a crucial role in the Power’s only win of the season.
Stationed in defence, Notman proved a difficult wall to overcome for opponents the GWV Rebels that day, but the versatility that has her in contention to be selected in October 22’s NAB AFLW Draft would soon be clear to see.
“At Vic Country I played in the ruck and then I went forward, and in the last game I went to the back line,” Notman said.
“I learnt how to play more in the back line at Gippsland, so I feel a bit more comfortable down there, but then at Casey I pretty much only played in the forward line.
“I’m pretty versatile, so I don’t really mind where I play.”
Time with the VFLW Demons gave Notman an insight into what it takes to play at the elite level, with Melbourne AFLW players like Libby Birch and Shelley Scott assisting her with off-field habits and learning the team’s on-field structures.
Notman’s goals are now grander than at the start of 2019 – and certainly bigger than when she went down clutching her knee in pain just minutes into the season.
“I didn’t expect to be here at the Combine, to be honest,” Notman said. “I was just playing with the girls at Gippsland at the start of the year and I was just hoping that some teammates ended up getting drafted this year.
“But after I got the news that I’d made the Vic Country squad, my goals got a bit bigger and I wanted to see if I could get drafted myself.”
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