Spending more hours in her car than on the netball court, perseverance has paid off handsomely for Central Manawa midcourter Tyra-Jade (TJ) Alexander and with it a breakthrough season in the Synergy Hair Netball League (NNL).

After several years on the fringes, Alexander has cracked the code in 2024, making the 12-strong Manawa squad for the first time and for the opening two rounds of this year's NNL being selected in the game-day 10 while getting plenty of on-court action to boot.

All the while, Alexander, 21, makes the commute from small town New Zealand, driving from Dannevirke, in the Manawatu-Whanganui region, to Wellington twice a week for trainings and again for game day, a round trip of six hours.

Working part-time at a gym in Dannevirke, Alexander leaves Dannevirke at 2.30pm on training days and generally walks back through the door of home at 11pm.

She is closely monitored by the Manawa staff, who check in with her regularly while there is always a bed available if she wants to overnight in the Capital.

"It is a challenge but I'm a bit of a home person and being only twice a week it's more manageable for me than moving down here," she said. "It's all worth it. I'm loving being part of Manawa and it's been great to get some game-time as well."

The wing defence, who also plays centre, was chuffed to be part of Manawa's first win and helping get their campaign back on track after a disappointing loss in their season-opener.

Staring down the barrel when trailing by seven at halftime, Manawa produced a stirring 15-goal turnaround against Waikato Bay of Plenty in the second half to clock a key 67-59 win.

"Getting that first win was a good booster for us and also the strong finish which gave us a good margin at the end," Alexander said.

"Coming off a loss, it was especially good to get a win in our first home game, and so good that we were able to step up in that second half and build on that because we were down by quite a bit. So, it was good to get the lead back and finish strong."

Alexander, who is also an accomplished boxer, plays her club netball for Massey Netball based at Massey University in Palmerston North and was the Massey A1 Club Player of the Year in 2023.

Clocking up plenty of miles in her car, Alexander wants to do the same for Manawa with her major goals being to "stay within the (playing) mix, enjoy what I'm doing and really challenge for another title."

In third round action, Manawa will meet the Southern Blast in Wellington on Sunday.