NS EXCLUSIVE: Rahni Samason – speed bumps and support systems

NS EXCLUSIVE: Rahni Samason – speed bumps and support systems

By |2023-03-14T16:40:04+10:00March 14th, 2023|Categories: AUS, Exclusive Interview, Featured, SSN|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

If there’s any upside to Rahni Samason’s current injury, it’s this. It isn’t an ACL this time, and she’s been there, done that, knows what rehab looks like. None the less, it’s frustrating news for the young Vixen, who’s recently missed close to three seasons of netball through a combination of a more serious knee injury and Covid. Unfortunately, it’s going to be more of the same in 2023, after Samason sustained a leg injury that will require a period of rehabilitation.

Known for her strength under the post and an incredibly accurate radar, 2023 was set to be a big year for Samason, playing alongside shooting partners Kiera Austin and Mwai Kumwenda. And so despite her recent announcement as an Ambassador for WorkSafe Victoria, Vixens long term sponsor, and a busy workload off court, Samason will also need to focus on rehab after her latest setback.

There will be plenty of support from the netball community, something which the young shooter said is vital for any athlete’s recovery process. She said, “I’ve gone through quite a few injuries, and it can be isolating and mentally tough to overcome. We heard the news about Tara (Hinchliffe, ACL injury) just the other day, and it absolutely breaks my heart. So it’s important for injured athletes to have a space where they feel comfortable, loved and supported.”

Having come up through the strong Victorian pathway system, Samason had a breakout season in 2018, named Victorian Fury’s MVP and the Australia Netball League’s MVP. Shortly afterwards, she ruptured her ACL in a training session.


Rahni Samason’s knee issues have kept her off court at times. Image: Kirsten Daley


It was the start of a year long period that included surgery and rehabilitation, something that Samason said she only got through with the help of her gym buddies. Kumwenda, who’d also recently ruptured her ACL, and Tayla Honey, who’d ruptured her Achilles, were both in recovery mode, and the trio experienced the highs and lows together.

“We would go out after so many gym sessions just to share some food together, and it was so nice to have people who understood you on a different level. There’s a lot of pity that people will give you, which is fine, but these two could look into my eyes and say, ‘We get you.’

“During rehab, you can have amazing days, but you can also have the worst days. So to be able to talk to two people about that in depth, over and over again, can really get you through.

“And we had so much quality time together. Sometimes we wouldn’t even talk, but do silly things like share videos, laugh at memes, play music, the same songs three times in a row. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Covid also had an impact on Samason – both good and bad. On the downside, State League matches were cancelled in 2020, which meant she had a 32 month absence from the game. On the positive side, it gave the shooter plenty of time to work through any injury-related demons that haunted her. Samason said, “By that time, I just wanted to play. The fire had built up so much.

“2020 was supposed to be my comeback year but I was scared. Scared that I wasn’t good enough, scared that I might reinjure myself. There was a lot going on mentally and physically.

“So Covid helped me to gain some more time and the confidence in my knee. And once netball ended up starting, it was, ‘Get me out on the court’, because I hadn’t been there for nearly three years. I was so ready.”


Rahni Samason is able to sink the long range shots, anywhere, anytime. Image: Kirsten Daley


By the time 2021 arrived, Samason was tearing up the court in State League, and went on to debut in Suncorp Super Netball’s Round 4. A Vixens’ training partner, she was called into the team after injury hit another athlete, was on a plane to Queensland by Wednesday, and part of the starting seven on Saturday. In one of the best debuts ever seen, Samason hit 29/32 at 93% accuracy, landing eight super shots, including a match winner in the closing seconds of the game.

And while Samason deserved all the kudos she received, she said the impact wasn’t all positive. “I had such a response from the whole netball world. Before the game it was a normal day, for example, I only had about 800 followers on social media. There was a crowd there at the match, cameras, and I’m quite good at tuning everything out. So I did everything normally, called mum, my pre-game rituals, and went out and played.

“That night my phone didn’t stop. I gained 3000 followers in just a few hours. The Vixens managers had lots of people that wanted to interview me, asking for photoshoots and so on. I was dealing with all of that, plus what was going to be a two day trip, turned into a two month hub stay.

“So I got into my head, thinking people like me and now I need to keep pleasing them, and it’s no longer as fun when you think you have to please everyone else.”

While Samason might have had a couple of quieter games afterwards, she did learn how to cope with the added attention. Maturity has given her the ability to step back and see life through a slightly different lens. “I don’t get too personally attached now. With criticism for example, when I was 18 I could be personally affected by what the coach was telling me, thinking, ‘She doesn’t like me.’

“But no, she’s critiquing my game, and that has to happen if I want to become a better player. So being able to detach netball from the personal is important.”

Pre-game rituals also became crucial, with Samason describing hers as ‘pretty hefty.’ “I have a specific playlist that calms my nerves, and I do a lot of visualisation of the game which helps with any anxiety. I centre it back and focus on me. Because there is a lot in the game that can get you distracted. And when I’m over aroused that’s when my performance starts to drop. So I bring it back to me, focus on what I can do for the team and how I can play my role within it.”


Rahni Samason lining up the post. Image: Aliesha Vicars


Off the court, Samason combines netball coaching, employment at the Victorian Institute of Support, and being a disability support worker with What Ability. She said, “Giving back is the best thing ever, and I love jobs that involve helping people. I didn’t start playing netball till I was 11, but going back to grass roots netball, seeing the passion expressed by little girls and boys, brings me so much happiness. And What Ability helps us all to learn why inclusion is so important and that everyone deserves to have fun. Seeing the smiles on their faces keeps me going.”

Samason’s understanding of the importance of physical and mental health makes her the perfect ambassador for WorkSafe as she’s experienced both, on a personal level and through her work and family life. Two of her siblings have health related disabilities – one brother is on the autism spectrum, and another has a physical condition that’s needed more than 45 surgeries since birth. Plus Samason’s mum, who she describes as her hero, has a long term work related injury that keeps her out of sport.

“I see how strong she is, but also how she struggles at times,” said Samason. “She’s such a netball fanatic, so seeing her unable to do what she loves on the weekends because of a work related injury has impacted me a lot.

“WorkSafe has been a Netball Victoria partner for many years, since about 2005, and now they’ve come on board with the Vixens as well. So I’ve gone out to country towns, and worked with mental health programmes. Making sure that workers know there is somewhere they can turn to for their physical and mental health, and also how to proactively avoid problems as well.

“In sharing my story, I hope it helps people understand that it’s okay, not to be okay. It’s okay to speak up and also to lean on others when you need.

“People look at athletes and think their lives are nice and shiny, that they’re getting paid to do a sport they love. And while that is fantastic and I feel very privileged, even people in this position can struggle with physical and mental health.”


Rahni Samason holding space in the shooting circle. Image Marcela Massey

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About the Author:

Physiotherapist, writer and netball enthusiast. Feature articles, editorials and co-author of "Shine: the making of the Australian Netball Diamonds". Everyone has a story to tell, and I'm privileged to put some of them on paper. Thank you to the phenomenal athletes, coaches and people in the netball world who open a door to their lives, and let me tiptoe in.
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