VNL: Monash University Central star to lead from front

MONASH University Central star Helen Barclay was playing non-stop netball last year.

The 27-year-old defender helped Central to the preliminary finals of the Victorian Netball League, played with friends at Mansfield in the Goulburn Valley Football Netball League and was a squad member with Victoria Fury, which plays in the Australian Netball League, the feeder competition for the ANZ championship.

The year proved exhausting for Barclay with travel and training for all three sides pushing her to the limit.

But it also helped her playing form as she was a co-winner of the Margaret Caldow Trophy for the most valuable player in the VNL, tying with Peninsula Waves' Mwayi Kumwenda and Yarra Valley Grammar's Caitlyn Strachan for the award.

SEE: Monash University Central 2013 fixture.

With 2012 Central captain Lauren Bennett missing this season due to family commitments, Barclay has stepped into the captain's role and will look to lead from the front when the VNL season begins this Wednesday night.

"It's definitely a privilege to lead the team, it feels like a good time to take on that important responsibility," she said.

"I'm coming off a strong season so it has given me a lot of confidence."

Barclay admits she is enjoying her netball with Central so much that the years have sprinted by.

"All of a sudden I'm a 27 year old and one of the senior players," she said with a laugh.

"The youngsters keep coming and you look around and realise how young other players are."

This season Barclay won't be making the trips to Mansfield, instead focusing on her VNL commitments.

She said Central had returned the majority of its senior side from last season with the group determined to push for the premiership after losing to eventual champions City West Falcons by a goal in last season's preliminary final.

"When we lost by one goal in the finals last year it was heartbreaking," Barclay said.

"I think we were all pretty close to tears because we put all our effort into one game and couldn't quite get there.

"After that game a lot of people in the team used those emotions as a driving force to come back even stronger this year.

"Most of this year's team went through that and will carry that with them."

Barclay has no doubt her side is good enough to cotend for the title.

"I really feel like we have the ability to get further into the finals and play for the premiership," she said.

Aside from losing Bennett, who plays goal shooter or goal attack, Central has added one of the rising stars in Victorian netball in goal attack Sarah Main, who joins from Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels.

Barclay, who matched up on the Victorian under-age player several times in past seasons, said she was excited to see Main in Central colours.

"Sarah is a dedicated player with a lot of talent who is really looking to make her mark," Barclay said.

With Victorian netball adding a second team to the Australian Netball League this coming season, more VNL players than ever will get the chance to play in front of national league selectors.

Barclay is one player who hopes to get another chance to impress after previously playing with Vic Fury and her home-town ACT Darters team.

"It's really a fantastic opportunity and hopefully a few Monash players get the chance to make those teams," Barclay said.

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