By David Nagel

A switch from the floorboards to the football fields has paid off handsomely for Beaconsfield ruckman Samantha Johnson who took home the South Eastern Womens Football division two best and fairest award on Wednesday night.
Johnson was joined by division one winner Amy Harrison from the Gippsland Maroons, and Development League winner Sophie Bolding from the Bass Coast Breakers, as the big winners as the league celebrated its inaugural season of competition at the Mornington Racecourse.
Johnson’s rise to prominence has been most impressive, with the 25-year-old playing her first season of football after playing basketball since the age of seven. A shoulder injury was hampering her basketball career, so she decided to switch sports – a great move that has well and truly paid dividends.
“I’m pretty shocked to be honest, it’s my first year of football so I wasn’t really expecting something like this to happen,” Johnson said, before explaining how she first became involved in the sport.
“A couple of friends from school asked me to go the Narre Warren Football Club, but that didn’t end up going ahead. One of the guys from Beaconsfield – I’m pretty close with his sister – he asked me down to training and it all went pretty much from there.”
Johnson, who will play in Sunday’s grand final against Endeavour Hills, said she had enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of a football season.
“With any sport you get the highs and the lows, but with football the massive part for me was just learning new things in a new sport that I’ve never tried before,” she said.
“Mark Hornstra and Nicky Eakins, they got me there in the first place, and Scott Hilton my coach has been a massive support for me. He’s always had my back and believed in me and pushed me to my limits…I just want to keep learning and see where it all takes me I guess.”
The sky would appear to be the limit for the talented tall, who only truly believes now the words of those who have encouraged her along the way.
“A lot of people have told me I have potential but I’ve never really seen it in myself until tonight, being awarded the best and fairest. I’d love to see where it goes, but I’ll probably stick at Beaconsfield next year, I absolutely love the club and the support they’ve given me this year. But we’ll see what happens; I’m pretty much open to anything right now.”
Harrison’s division one win was also surprising, given the Maroons missed out on a finals berth this season. But it’s not surprising given the football apprenticeship she has served under one of the greats of the women’s game.
“I’ve only played footy for two or three years but I had the best exposure imaginable, playing at the VU Western Spurs under Debbie Lee,” Harrison said.
“My apprenticeship in footy has been one of the best you can get with her at the helm, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m a little bit overwhelmed to have won this actually, it’s something I wasn’t expecting considering the finish we had as a team. We started strongly enough, but lost a game against St Kilda after the siren and that seemed to drain our season a bit.”
The star on-baller said she was still undecided about whether to give footy a red-hot go in 2018 after the sport almost broke her spirit last year.
“I gave footy a good crack last year and I was definitely disappointed at not being drafted into the AFL,” she said.
“The focus this year has been on finding the love for footy again, which I have, but I haven’t made a decision yet on whether I’ll push myself to play some VFL at Casey Demons next year. People forget how far it is from Gippsland, it would be two hours from Sale to training and back and then the same to play on a weekend.”
Harrison wanted to thank the Traralgon Football Netball Club for its professionalism and support, her team-mates, but particularly her coach Nikki Schroeter who is super-passionate about creating pathways and providing opportunities for female footballers in the Gippsland region.

Winner                 Amy Harrison – Gippsland Maroons 15 votes
Runner Up          Olivia Aing – Eastern Devils 11 votes
Third                   Tara Bohanna – Eastern Devils 10 votes
Winner                 Samantha Johnson – Beaconsfield 18 votes
Runner Up           Elizabeth Muir – Mornington 18 votes
Third                    Elizabeth Whitfield – Endeavour Hills 14 votes
Winner                 Sophie Bolding – Bass Coast Breakers 26 votes
Runner Up           Zoe Mitchell – Hastings 20 votes
Third                    Katie Dean – Tyabb 17 votes
Tara Bohanna      Eastern Devils
Division 1             Shae Dale – Eastern Devils 19 Goals
Division 2             Shae Frazer – Beaconsfield 33 Goals
Development        Lynette Patten – Colts 61 Goals
Megan Snart        Eastern Devils
Ella Angarane      Bass Coast Breakers

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