Samantha Wallace

TENDER MOMENT: T&T netball star Samantha Wallace embraces her late father, 

Hendrickson, who suffered the first of two strokes while she was playing in Australia, before passing in 2019.

Trinidad and Tobago netball star Samantha Wallace had another successful season in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball League as her NSW Swifts won the title for the second time in three years. However, Wallace, who starred in the final, did so while dealing with the loss of a relative. It was not the first time that the ace goal-shoot had had to deal with the loss of a loved one while plying her trade abroad. And in a recent interview with the Sydney Telegraph newspaper, she spoke about how she has coped with those blows.

Wallace’s team-mates were on court training for the August 27 Super Netball grand final. And while Wallace wished she could have been there, instead she was watching via video call as her aunt was laid to rest at home in Trinidad and Tobago.

“My cousin video-called me while the service was going on. So, I still felt a part of it, even though I am miles away,” she said.

Wallace found out about her aunt’s death just two days before the Swifts’ major semi-final. She played the match, helping the Swifts to a thrilling one-point victory which booked their place in the grand final. Many encouraged her to sit out the clash, but she declined. After all, Wallace is no stranger to dealing with loss around the finals.

In 2019, just days after the Swifts won their sixth premiership, Wallace’s father died following a series of strokes.

Wallace wanted to return home after his first stroke, but her father pushed her to remain in Australia to keep playing. A year earlier, Wallace lost another aunt during the 2018 season.

“When I heard the news [about her aunt last week] I just thought, ‘I can’t catch a break’,” she said. “It’s been a roller-coaster. But God has given me the strength.“

Wallace is seeing her aunt’s death as a sign. As much as she wants to make this entire season worth her struggles, she believes the tragedy is the result of something greater at play.

Wallace went onto the court and gave a performance, driving the Swifts to a second championship in three seasons with a 63-59 win over Giants and ending up being named 2021 club MVP.

The MVP is the highest accolade awarded at the Swifts and is given to the player who has received the most votes from a specialist panel during the regular season. It is the third time the attacker has won the award since joining the Swifts in 2017, and equals club centurion Cath Cox’s record of three MVP wins. Wallace previously took the award in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Wallace can place the MVP award next to her Championship medallion, with the star shooter in imperious form in her team’s Grand Final victory. She scored 51 goals on 90 per cent shooting efficiency, playing a key role in her team’s win over the GIANTS to claim their seventh Premiership, and second in three years.

NSW Swifts executive general manager Nikki Horton said Wallace’s growth and consistency since she joined the club was remarkable.

“Sam came to us as a talented but raw attacker back in 2017, however she has blossomed into one of the finest, if not best, shooters in the world,” Horton said. “What is most impressive about Sam is her inner strength and drive to succeed, and the way she makes her job look easy, which it isn’t.”

“She has overcome the heartache of losing her dad (in 2019) and aunt (this season) to deliver for the team time and time again. Now she is a double Premiership champion, and she could win even more. Sam also plays the game beautifully with a skill and flair that is almost unrivalled. When people see Sam Wallace play netball they want to tune in more and more.”

Wallace recalled a conversation with team-mates before the grand final.

“I told one of my team-mates, in 2019 my father lived to see the grand final and passed some days after that,” she said. “Now, in 2021, my aunt passes away before we go into the grand final. I’m like, ’Is this a sign?’”

Wallace is one of the most bubbly sports people around. She has a smile so infectious it can instantly shift the mood of her team, even after a heavy defeat.

Wallace’s calm, but positive energy is one of the integral reasons the Swifts have done so well during a difficult Covid-19 season, which saw the team relocated four times in just a month.

But despite he trials, Wallace has persevered and succeeded.

“Having a death in your family is something I would never wish upon anybody, especially when you can’t be there to say a final goodbye,” she said. “But at the end of the day, this is my bread and butter and this is my job. As tough as it is to be away from family and loved ones during this time, this is what I’m getting paid for.”

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

TEAM TTO’s Nicholas Paul pedalled his way to a historic silver medal at the 2021 Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Roubaix, France, yesterday.

The feat came in the men’s kilometre time-trial as he completed four laps of the 250m track in 59.791 seconds. Two-time world champion Jeffrey Hoogland of the Netherlands dominated with a speedy :58.418 to take the gold and add to his men’s keirin title from Thursday night. Germany’s Joachim Eilers claimed the bronze in 1:00.008.