These days, most athletes get a phone call to be told they have made their national team.
Not Taneisha Fifita.
The former North Otago netballer was certain she was not picked for New Zealand Under-21 because of it – until she checked her emails.
“I didn’t get a call because they had my number wrong, which was my fault.
“At first I didn’t think I made it and then I got the email and I was like
She was overwhelmed to be named in the squad for the first time, having the opportunity to play in the Cadbury Series against the Silver Ferns, New Zealand A and New Zealand Men.
The goal keep was given a mammoth task in her first game in the black and white – defending New Zealand Men’s goal shoot Junior Levi.
Levi is 219cm tall (7ft 2in), but for a big man, his elevation, movement and court craft is impressive.
Fifita, who played her first full-time contract with the Southern Steel this year, had come up against tall shooters in the ANZ Premiership this season, namely Grace Nweke and Ellie Bird, but never anybody like him.
“He’s very big and very strong.
“I can’t get anything off him … it was a good experience to play off that kind of player.”
Her side eventually went down 73-44 but it was a good hit-out against a “more physical and different style of game play”.
The Under-21s lost 81-33 to the Silver Ferns and gave New Zealand A a tight battle, losing by only four.
It was an impressive showing for a young team that went in with “nothing to lose and learnt so much from that series”.
“Playing the men was a really good challenge for us leading into training for what we want to become in the future for the World Cup.”
The squad created a good team culture and it was pleasing to see the connections coming together through the work of coach Yvette McCausland-Durie.
As the back-to-back reigning ANZ Premiership winning coach, McCausland-Durie had a wealth of experience to share with her players.
Through the Pathway to Podium programme, Fifita had worked with her before and enjoyed the opportunity to extend the connection.
“She’s different from previous, but I like that … I’ve mainly only been coached by three people, with Georgie [Salter], Reinga [Bloxham] and Yvette.
“It’s all different coaching but I love all the feedback and anything I can get.”
Her focus has now shifted to making the New Zealand World Youth Cup squad, for December next year. She will finish the year with another national training camp in December.