Game changer Gabi Simpson has been named the ninth Liz Ellis Diamond, receiving the honour in Melbourne at the Australian Netball Awards.
Simpson, who debuted for the Diamonds at the end of 2015, has capped off a remarkable year with the honour, including 13 international tests across 2016 and early 2017.
The 23-year-old was shocked to receive the award, that the likes of Laura Geitz, Caitlin Bassett and Madi Robinson have also won, so early in her career.
“If you look at the players that are in the Diamonds, I still feel like a rookie. The girls that I look up to are in this team so it is a bit spine chilling,” Simpson said.
“I came into the program four years ago and I only started playing (for the Diamonds) a couple of years ago. I worked really hard to make the side, so I know how much it means to me.
“To play for Australia, it’s such a huge honour. To be given the Liz Ellis Diamond, to me seems a bit ridiculous in my mind. Thank you.”
The Firebirds Captain made a significant impact in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season, leading a new defensive line-up.
She was the highest-ranked wing defence across several key statistics including, 43 deflections, 21 intercepts, 33 pickups and 34 gains.
Simpson played wing defence for every minute across every quarter of every game for the Firebirds in 2017.
“It’s been huge. The biggest thing for me is it has been such a learning curve,” Simpson said.
“The netball has probably been the easiest part, but everything off the court has been really challenging but a fantastic challenge. It has made me grow as a person, and also grow as a player.
“In those times when someone’s got to step up, there’s no excuse you’ve got to be it.”
With 15 international test caps to her name, we can look forward to seeing more of this defensive dynamo in years to come.