Margaret Corbett's influence on Mardi Aplin can't be overstated - the guidance she provided through the Orange coach's formative years was incomparable and her dedication and commitment to grassroots netball still serves as inspiration for the Orange coach.
That came full circle last weekend, the pair sharing a unique moment at Netball NSW's State Dinner at Campbelltown Catholic Club.
As the award's namesake Corbett, an Order of Australia Medal recipient, was on hand to present Aplin with Netball NSW's coach of the year crown, a deserved accolade to recognise her unparalleled mentoring efforts at virtually every level of the game.
It was a huge surprise and it's such a great reward to receive.Netball NSW coach of the year Mardi Aplin
Not that she had a particularly long time to celebrate, in a perfect indication of her commitment the morning after Saturday's presentation Aplin immediately flew to Coffs Harbour to overlook the third Phase I trial for Netball NSW's under-17 side.
"It was a huge surprise and it's such a great reward to receive," Aplin, Netball NSW's regional development and pathways unit manager, said.
"It's great to get that recognition and I think it probably does mean a little bit more to me being the Margaret Corbett OAM (Coaches Award), because I went through my pathway with her.
"I'd definitely say she's been the inspiration in where I'm stationed with my role now, and what I try to achieve through that.
"She was always the voice for the sport and athletes in regional areas ... which is so important. To be able to receive an award like this from her, that's named after her, was very, very special.
"I wouldn't be able to win awards like this without all the opportunities I've been given or without the support of the netball community though, so a big thank you to everyone involved."
Aplin's crowning moment came on the same night Corbett was elevated to Legend status in Netball NSW's Hall of Fame, becoming just the second to earn the tag.
The Sutherland Shire great, who was one of Australia's leading coaches for four decades, joined inaugural Legend, former Diamonds captain and fellow OAM recipient Anne Sargeant in the uppermost echelon.
Just to top off Aplin's night, her former Life Studio charge Annie Miller was also awarded the Marj Groves AM Scholarship for 2019, which was established in 2007 and is presented to an outstanding athlete within the NSW Institute of Sport program.
Miller had another huge year and once again donned sky blue as part of the state's under-19 side, while Life Studio star Alex Emerson was also on hand at the dinner after her role in NSW's under-17 national championship tilt.
"That was just awesome," Aplin said.
"It's so great to see Annie Alex, two young players I've coached, excelling the way they have at that level, it's that kind of thing that makes my job so worthwhile."
In further proof of Aplin's continued commitment to the grassroots level, while she has big things on the horizon in 2020 one of her biggest commitments will be as coach of Orange's under-12 squad.
"Yep, that's the big task for 2020, going back to the under 12s," Aplin laughed.
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