Fiji defender leaps into Pulse colours
The naming of athletic Fiji defender Kelera Nawai has completed the playing roster of Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse for the 2021 ANZ Premiership netball league.
The 1.87m 23-year-old originally came from Fiji to St Andrews College in Christchurch on a scholarship in 2014. She was involved in Canterbury netball for several years, playing for her school ahead of making the 2017 Mainland Beko Netball League team while also being a training partner for the Tactix the same year.
Converting to the defensive end after starting life as a shooter, Nawai has made the transition from the small South Island town of Methven to the bigger smoke of Wellington in a bid to resurrect her career at the elite level.
``She was probably on track to do that when she was a schoolgirl but life intervened,’’ Netball Central Director of High Performance, Wai Taumaunu said.
Having visa issues, Nawai returned to Fiji in 2017 where she played for the national team including attending the 2019 World Cup where she attracted Taumaunu’s interest.
Married in 2018 and having a baby – her son is now three years old – Nawai returned to New Zealand in 2019 to join her husband who works in Methven and where she has plied her netball trade in recent times.
``Her ability to play both goalkeeper and goal defence with great presence was what attracted us,’’ Taumaunu said.
``She’s physically imposing with a great reach and has a strong presence on the rebound. She is a real athlete and has a lot of potential. There’s a lot of work to be done but we’re confident we’ve got the makings of a long-term prospect.’’
With a wingspan of 1.94m, Nawai adds to the height factor along with fellow long-limbed 1.92m defender Kelly Jury in what will be a new-look defensive end for the Pulse in 2021 after the loss of Katrina Rore (expecting her first child) and Karin Burger (Tactix).
``It’s always difficult to replace the quality of players that we lost in Katrina and Karin but we’re very happy to have retained five Silver Ferns squad members and quality shooter Aliyah Dunn, so we’re really confident in what we’ve got across the court,’’ Taumaunu said.
``In Kelera, we think we’ve got enormous potential and it’s the same with Paris Lokotui and Parris Mason who are two of the absolutely most talented defenders at under-21 level.
``It may take time for that defensive end to settle but it provides Kelly (Jury) with a great leadership opportunity which is her next step from our perspective and we’re really excited about what it will look like.’’
2021 Pulse team:
Te Amo Amaru-Tibble, Aliyah Dunn, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Maddy Gordon, Kelly Jury, Claire Kersten, Paris Lokotui, Parris Mason, Kelera Nawai, Whitney Souness.