Horsham district champions rewarded

SWIFTS' Ricky Whitehead and Noradjuha-Quantong's Fiona Rowe were the toast of the Horsham District league after winning the senior football and A Grade netball best and fairest awards at Holy Trinity Lutheran School in Horsham on Monday night.

Whitehead finished the season strongly to win the Horsham Tyre and Battery Service best and fairest award with 24 votes.

He edged out Edenhope-Apsley's James Dixon and Taylors Lakes' Patrick Purcell, who tied for second with 23 votes. Last year's winner Tim Wade of Kalkee finished fourth with 21 votes.

Whitehead, 24, said he didn't give himself a chance to win. He didn't do a pre-season, then rolled his ankle in the first round.

Whitehead credited club president Robert Carey and coach Paul Hanns for helping turn his season around.

"They spoke to me about not being so lazy, and told me I had the chance to be part of something special this year," he said.

Whitehead worked harder and his efforts paid off, being named best on ground four times between round 10 and 15 to put him in contention for the league's highest individual honour.

"To win this award means a fair bit, especially for all the support I've been given. I never expected it," he said.

Whitehead's triumph is also a story of courage and determination. He lost a kidney after a clash on the football field in 2010, leaving question marks about whether he'd ever play again.

Whitehead said an early retirement was never an option for him.

"I put it at the back of my mind and got on the weights to get back," he said.

After a brief stint in the Queensland Australian Football League last season, Whitehead returned to Swifts to play out the remainder of the 2011 season.

"Swifts is a great club to be around, everyone loves each other," he said.

He has already recommitted to the club for the 2013 season and believes the side can improve on its preliminary final finish. "I think we'll be in the grand final next year," he said.

Noradjuha-Quantong defender Fiona Rowe capped a stellar return to the court to win Horsham District Netball Association A Grade best and fairest.

Rowe had a knee reconstruction at the end of the 2010 season and didn't play last season as she was pregnant. It was her first league best and fairest award.

She was named best on court in the final three rounds to win the award from Laharum's Nikki Ervin.

"I was surprised to win," Rowe said.

"We've got a pretty good team we were all taking votes off each other."

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