Sibling solidarity rose to new levels when Central Manawa netball sisters Salote and Api Taufa shared extended time on the side-lines after both fell victim to the same serious injury at the same time.
The pair is now back in the Synergy Hair Netball League groove after recovering from Achilles tendon ruptures suffered in 2020 in a quirky twist of fate. Sharing a similar netball path – both were selected for the Manawa team at an early age – the sisters have also shared plenty of off-court angst to get back to where they were.
"It was actually crazy because literally, the day before I did mine, my sister (Api) had ruptured her Achilles in a freak accident, so just having her by my side was so valuable,’’ Salote Taufa said.
"It’s a bit weird but maybe it was meant to happen that we both went through that together, and we were both there to support each other.’’
Salote, a Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse training partner at the time, sustained her injury during a match-play session.
"I had my eyes set on NZU21 selection that year, so I was just gutted when it happened, it hurt me a lot,’’ she said. "It was a super long haul getting back to full fitness and strength."
"Before that, I hadn’t even rolled an ankle, then a ruptured Achilles put me out for a year. It was really hard to deal with. Because I hadn’t faced injury or a setback like that before I just didn’t really know what to do with myself.’’
Salote came through the Wellington age-group system during a strong era where her team-mates included Tiana Metuarau (Pulse), Renee Savai’inaea (Pulse/Steel) and Ainsleyana Puleiata (Manawa/Pulse) while winning the 15s, 17s and 19s national titles.
"Being a training partner meant I was fully immersed in the (Pulse) team and honestly, it was the greatest time. I was with my best mates, so it didn’t feel so daunting but I was still up against the likes of Pole (Katrina Rore) and Karin Burger, who were world champions,’’ she said.
"I had gained a bit of confidence from the U21s programme that I could give things a good crack in the Manawa/Pulse environment at the time but I lost of bit of that with the Achilles injury and it made things tough.’’
That is now all in the past and Salote is back plying her trade from wing attack while sister Api patrols the defence end for the unbeaten Manawa side, who meet the Southern Blast in Dunedin on Saturday.
"I’m honestly loving it,’’ Salote said. "You kind of forget when you’ve been in this environment for a couple of years just how valuable it is. Having that time away made me really miss seeing the girls every day, training, the camaraderie and that whole special feeling that happens when you are part of a team.
"There’s such a good team culture, we all push each other to be the best and there’s heaps of healthy competition.’’
Salote, 21, was first selected for Manawa in 2018, fresh out of Newlands College, where her Year 9 science teacher was former Pulse midcourter Claire Kersten.
Sister Api is three years older and when injury-free has featured for Manawa since the inception of the league in 2016.
"It’s pretty emotional for us sometimes, we’ve come so far but I love having her down there (defence) supporting and vice-versa,’’ Salote said.