ON January 4, 2014, Varli Blake’s life changed forever.
The call came in for a man threatening self-harm and the new constable was one of the first on the scene.
The man had locked himself in the bedroom of his Middle Park flat with a gas bottle.
The gas had spilled out into the rest of the apartment, reacting with an ignition point at exactly the same time that Varli, two police colleagues and firefighters came in.
Varli and the others were severely burnt in the incident and their painstaking recovery continues.
She has returned to work and this season will return to one of her favourite sports – netball.
Varli continued the family tradition, playing for Meeniyan Dumbalk United, before moving to the city. Her father Tony is a life member, and the family has long been involved with the Demons.
She will return to the courts this season as the B Grade coach.
MDU Netball president Tanya Thorson made the announcement early last week.
“We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Varli back,” Thorson said.
“Varli played in the juniors and some senior netball at MDU.
“She wanted to come back to the club and wanted to be involved in the sport, but due to her injuries and recovery program, she couldn’t return as a player, so she’s coming back as our B Grade coach.
“As a player she was skilful and determined, and was part of two junior premierships and was part of the runner-up B Grade premiership team.
“I think her determination, and strength, especially her mental strength which she’s shown so much of recently will be inspiring to the team and club.
“Already she’s created so much enthusiasm and interest – a couple of players have already committed to coming back because they want to play under Varli.”
Friend Karen Wynne said Varli’s return to the courts was ‘inspiring’.
“People are wanting to come back again and be part of the club and play. It’s like, if she can do it, we all can,” she said.
“She was a good netballer but she’ll bring other strengths to the team as well, especially her determination – we can all learn from her character, especially considering what she’s come back from.”
In a short statement to the club, Varli said she was excited to return to MDU and was looking forward to being part of the community.
Along with Varli Blake as the B Grade coach, MDU Netball Club has already selected its other coaches.
A Grade coach is Rachel Priestley.
Priestley played a few seasons with MDU in the mid-noughties before being scouted and enticed away to play for Pakenham.
There she has played in three A Grade grand finals, winning one premiership.
Priestley will be a playing coach, using her goal shooting skills and leadership on the court.
The C Grade coach is yet to be announced; 17 and Under coach is Lauren Redpath; 15 and Under is Jodie Arnup; 13 and Under is Melody Martin and Darlene Jones; 11 and Under is Darlene Jones.
Last year MDU struggled to fill its junior teams, both in football and netball, so to entice juniors back to the sport and club, MDU is waiving all junior membership fees.