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No fairy-tale end but plenty to be proud of for Harrison

No fairy-tale end but plenty to be proud of for Harrison

The fairy-tale finish may have eluded her but outstanding defender Anna Harrison can look back with huge satisfaction on a lengthy and fruitful career after calling time at season’s end.

Spending the last two seasons playing for the Robinhood Stars, Harrison confirmed the 2022 Grand Final against Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse was her swansong. Playing in just her second national league Grand Final in a career spanning 20 years, Harrison was denied a first title when the Stars were tipped up by the Pulse.

“This is it for me, you won’t see me back on court next season,” an emotional Harrison said post-match.

“I made the decision a little while ago and told the team after the Elimination Final, so this was my last chance to get that medal. But I was stoked to be here, it’s been an absolute gift the last two seasons playing with these girls and seeing the growth of our club.”

Defying the odds when coming out of retirement at the grand age of 37, in 2021, after initially hanging up her bib in 2018, Harrison showed she had lost none of her touch with her influential on-court performances and leadership skills for the Stars over the last two seasons.

Turning back the clock, Harrison thrilled her large band of followers with her indomitable spirit, competitiveness, experience and on-court antics. After coming out of retirement to play a full role over the past two seasons, Harrison did not disappoint and was still at the top of her game when finally pulling the pin as a 39-year-old after playing 156 national league matches.

Acting as a mentor to her up-and-coming fellow defenders while providing the experience and competitive edge on court, Harrison’s leadership and performance were exceptional attributes during her time with the Stars.

A formidable opponent across all three defensive positions, Harrison’s aerial ability, long reach and timing were key facets to her play and which quickly drew attention when she was first selected to the Silver Ferns as a 19-year-old in 2002. A menacing presence while adding variety at the defensive end, Harrison refined her craft over the years, was the ultimate competitor and a proven match winner.

Starting with the Otago Rebels in 2002, Harrison played 14 seasons of national league netball, including turning out for both Auckland teams, the Stars and Northern Mystics. Her only other Grand Final appearance was in 2011, for the Mystics, who lost to the Firebirds in that year’s ANZ Championship decider.

Harrison’s physique and background in volleyball played a leading role in making her one of the game’s great innovators and she will go down in netball folklore after hitting the headlines when instigating the manoeuvre dubbed the ‘Harrison Hoist’.

In 2012, the lanky Harrison was lifted by a fellow defender in an attempt to deflect the shot when the Mystics were playing the Melbourne Vixens. Harrison made several vital and successful blocks while being hoisted, the perfectly legal ploy rattling the Vixens and leading to a Mystics win.

The ‘Harrison Hoist’ will forever remain part of Harrison’s legacy while adding to the lustre of her invaluable contribution to netball.

While she missed out on winning a national league title, Harrison experienced considerable success on the international front after claiming gold medals with the Silver Ferns at the 2003 Netball World Cup and 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games.