APPLECROSS resident Elsma Merillo played a number of sports as an underage athlete, with a fair amount of success.
There were state titles in both swimming and tennis, but in the end there was one path she seemed destined to follow.
“I think netball actually chose me,” she said.
“As an under-age sportsperson in Western Australia I did everything.
“But when you get chosen in the state open netball team at age 16 and Australian team the same year I think it sort of says ‘pursue this’.”
It was 1965 when the skilful goal shooter earned her first Australian call-up, although due to her age it was two years before she could pull on the national colours.
It began an incredible playing, coaching and administrative career where she starred on the international stage, led WA to its last open National Championship in 1974, made a comeback to captain WA to third at the ’79 championships, was a driving force behind the development of the State Netball League in 1989, and coached the Australian B side in 1994.
Mrs Merillo said her own coaches inspired her to help create opportunities for future players targeting the top level when her time on the court was up.
These days she helps keep the sport’s history and heritage alive from her position on Netball WA’s Awards and Recognition Committee.An ongoing exhibition at the State Netball Centre in Jolimont is celebrating 50 years since Perth hosted the World Tournament, the same competition which marked her international debut.
For her efforts across five decades, she has been announced as a finalist for February’s WA Sports Star Awards, earning a nomination in the Service to Sport category.
Mrs Merillo said she was surprised, honoured and humbled, but added the sport survived thanks to huge number of volunteers.
Netball WA chief executive Simon Taylor described Mrs Merillo’s service to netball in Australia as “unparalleled.”
“Elsma has and always will be a strong advocate for netball, is giving of her time as a volunteer, and her passion and love for the game is second to none,” he said.
“Elsma’s service to netball is something we are indebted to as a sport.”
Award winners will be announced at Optus Stadium on February 8.
WA Sports Star Awards’ service to sport nominees (May Campbell Medal)
This award recognises the contribution made by an individual to their sport or sporting organisation through their long and outstanding service:
Anne Stingemore (Floreat), Athletics.
John Davies (Trigg), Football.
Elsma Merillo (Applecross), Netball.