With the business end of the Synergy Hair Netball League approaching, Central Manawa defender Danielle Tafili has highlighted the personal sacrifice players at this level make, most of which largely go unseen.
Wanting to give her full attention to netball, Tafili, 22, quit her fulltime job to do just that. She has no regrets but it’s a timely example of what’s needed to be fully engaged at the second-tier level.
``I quit my fulltime job at MSD (Ministry of Social Development) to be a part of this team, to fully commit because it takes a lot of your time, you need to be flexible and be places at certain times,’’ Tafili said. ``I have no regrets I love doing this.’’
Sitting below the ANZ Premiership, the national league remains a key element in strengthening Netball New Zealand’s performance pathway for new talent, and comes with high degrees of intensity, commitment and time which is not always recognised.
Players at this level often have fulltime jobs or are fulltime students, meaning most of their netball preparation is done outside normal hours. Manawa also plays a central role in backing up their sister team Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse, and this year, in particular, have gone above and beyond the call of duty to provide crucial cover through the constant backdrop of Covid.
Manawa have taken everything in their stride, boxing on admirably to remain unbeaten and with just two rounds of the regular season remaining, have the bonus of playing at home in Wellington for their top-of-the-table clash against Mainland on Sunday.
``This is our first home game with our full team, so it’s going to be great to have everyone together and also with a crowd, so we can get our families and friends to come and watch,’’ Tafili said.
``They have been dying to come and watch us but Covid has prevented spectators up until now, so it will be awesome to have that support.’’
Predominantly a goalkeeper, Tafili was first selected for Manawa in 2017 as a 17-year-old college student. She now finds herself as part of a four-strong leadership group along with Parris Mason, Ainsleyana Puleiata and Renee Matoe and had her first crack at captaincy last weekend in a one-sided win over the Southern Blast.
``We rotate every week and last week was my first game of captaining throughout my time playing in the national league,’’ she said. ``It was something quite new to me but I loved being a leader and the team made it easy for me.
``I’m loving it all. The team environment is awesome. There’s just a really good vibe in the team, we all connect well, we gel on and off the court which is great and that just shows in our game as well, and how we play.
``Sunday will probably be our toughest game of the season to date and should be a great hit-out. `There’s no room for complacency, it’s really important for us this one (to help secure a spot in the final) and we have to make sure we stick to structures throughout the court, make sure our connections are sound, win ball, be accurate with our finishing and enjoy it as well.’’
With the 1.92m target of Pulse shooter Amelia Walmsley under the hoop, the athletic ability of defender Mason and the mercurial touches of midcourter Puleiata, all having had game-time with the Pulse this season, Manawa have considerable clout across the court.