Ahead of her 50th national league appearance, Shimona Nelson looks more at home than ever on the Suncorp Super Netball stage alongside some of the best netballers from across the globe.
Watching her pluck feeds from just about anywhere within her orbit, it’s difficult to fathom that the 22-year-old aerialist has only four years of netball under her belt.
Growing up in the Jamaican countryside, Nelson’s primary focus was always on her academic performance and for the self-professed nerd, sport didn’t enter the equation until her mid-teens.
With a 195-centimetre frame, it’s unsurprising that basketball was at the forefront of her pursuits, while she also dabbled in track and field, and volleyball.
Nelson’s extroverted nature and desire to succeed with others by her side ultimately drew her back to team sports. With her sights set on a dual scholarship to continue her studies, she focused on becoming the best basketballer she could be.
Despite having a scholarship offer from the University of Illinois on the table, Nelson made the choice to take an alternative path via the University of the West Indies. The decision opened up the opportunity to try her hand at any sport she desired and with a knack for basketball, the athletic Jamaican thought netball was worth a shot.
So, began Nelson’s whirlwind journey to the elite level.
With just a short inter-college season under her belt, Nelson received the call up to represent her country in the World Youth Cup – an achievement made all the more incredible by the fact that the youngster was still grasping the rules of the sport.
“The transition to netball was really hard and I’m always working on getting better – I’m still in that process of learning,” Nelson says.
Her performance on the international stage resulted in a call from the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
At the ripe age of 18, Nelson made the move to Australia as a replacement player for the injured Cat Tuivaiti – an opportunity she grabbed with both hands.
Nelson netted 418 goals in her 14 games for the Thunderbirds as her debut season made her hot property.
Her next stop? The Holden Centre.
“I’m very grateful for what Adelaide did for me, they did so much for me off-court but I felt like on-court, I needed a new challenge.”
35 games later, Nelson is now looking down the barrel of a 50-game milestone this weekend against the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
With her confidence growing each game, Nelson has 304 goals to her name for the 2021 season thus far, trailing only her Jamaican counterpart Jhaniele Fowler and Trinidad and Tobago spearhead, Sam Wallace.
With each game comes new lessons, with Nelson citing resilience and teamwork as her greatest takeaways from the 49 games gone by.
“I think less about myself, and I think about how I can help my teammates.”
“It’s about all of us – we win together, we lose together, we draw together.”
For Nelson, there’s still plenty to learn and while it may not always be perfect on court, there’s a silver lining in every challenge.
Much like the way she plays her netball – the sky is the limit.