Now something of a veteran, Central Manawa midcourter Colleen Faleafaga has tasted plenty of success in the National Netball League (NNL) while also achieving some notable milestones off the court.
Faleafaga, 23, is the only original member left of the inaugural Manawa team after the NNL was formed in 2016 to strengthen Netball New Zealand’s performance pathway.
Runners-up in 2016, Faleafaga helped the team secure back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019. Missing in action for the first of the three-peat in 2017, Faleafaga withdrew from the team that year for the birth of her daughter Ayla Rose, who will turn four in two weeks.
``There is a lot of expectation to get that four-peat but it’s a new team, so first and foremost, we just want to make sure we’re playing some good netball, gelling as a team and hopefully we can earn that W at the end of it,’’ Faleafaga said.
The experienced campaigner has been elevated to the leadership group this year and has been the on-court captain for Manawa’s opening two games of the season.
``I am enjoying it,’’ she said. ``Our team is quite new and I’m the only one left from our inaugural team, so I can offer that bit of experience to help the young ones get a feel of semi-pro netball.
``I feel like we’re gelling really well on and off court which is good. There are no cliques and there’s a great team culture which is all down to (coach) Anna (Andrews-Tasola) and our two assistant coaches.’’
Manawa opened their campaign with a comfortable win against Waikato Bay of Plenty before stumbling against the Northern Marvels who had Mystics ANZ Premiership shooters Saviour Tui and Filda Vui in their ranks.
This week they meet the Southern Blast – who have compiled a two-win one-loss record – in Porirua on Sunday for their first televised game of the season.
``I think our loss came down to experience,’’ Faleafaga said. ``We led in the first quarter but we didn’t know how to maintain it, so against the Blast it’s just making sure we stick to our structures and at critical moments put our foot on the pedal and keep going.
``Maintaining a lead, our possession and scoring off our centre pass are keys.’’
Faleafaga is well acquainted with the coaching staff after being mentored by former Manawa head coach and now Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse assistant Pelesa Semu at St Mary’s College in Wellington where she started her netball life in the custodian’s position of goalkeeper.
At her PIC club she has come under the attention of current Manawa coach Andrews-Tasola and Netball Central Director of High Performance, Wai Taumaunu. It has since been a gradual move up court where Faleafaga is now predominantly a wing defence but also transitioning into the centre role.
Working fulltime while juggling netball and family is the third part of Faleafaga’s busy life equation. After graduating from her Corporate Management studies at the end of last year, she received an internship which has been extended and is now enjoying her first year in the corporate world.
``I have a huge family support network and my work is really good with knowing I have a daughter and netball commitments, so I have a lot of support for all aspects of my life,’’ she said.
``I have to make sure our plan is up to date at home, so everyone knows who’s doing pick-ups, when I have training and everything else that’s going on.’’