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Off Court: Sam Winders

Off Court: Sam Winders

Welcome to Off Court, where we delve into the lives of some of our favourite netballers and get to know them a little better outside of sport. This week we chat to Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel and Silver Ferns midcourter Sam Winders about the Steel, sheep and shifting to the south. 

Kia ora Sam! Tell us a little bit about how you balance both netball and who you are off the court – is it really important to you to have both?

Definitely, I think it's always been a big focus for me ever since I first started playing in competition way back in 2014. While I was playing I was also studying for five years – marketing and HR – and then I did a diploma in creative writing for children. I’ve always advocated for having more going on than just netball – I tell the younger girls in the team all the time about it! They think, “oh, I don’t have time for that!” but I think it’s important, there are always interesting opportunities happening all around to tap into.

And it’s a whole, ‘have to think about life after netball’ thing too, right?

Yeah. It is kind of scary thinking  about that because we’re literally doing the best possible job, and I think, ‘how am I ever going to find a job that fulfils me as much as playing!’ but you need to use your time to prepare for what it might look like when you finish, so it’s not stepping completely into the unknown. We can’t control what happens with contracts or injuries, I’ve seen it happen where players have been left scrambling because they thought they had another five years.

In the past there wasn’t a lot of support around about life after professional sport, but it’s different now – we’re in a better space.

Ok, so tell me about the sheep – you’re a sheep shearer too!? 

[Laughs] Well, not really, it’s my husband’s business. Before I met Josef, sheep shearing wasn’t something I knew anything about! He works for his family’s business and he competes in shows and things like that. But even though I can’t really do it, I’ve become an expert in it – and I’m frequently told that I’m not the only athlete in the family! I love going out to the sheds and just soaking it all in. Maybe I’ll use the off season to practice!

Did both of you relocate down to Invercargill – it must have been a massive change for you after nine years at the Magic! 

Yeah, we moved before pre-season last year – we bought a house in Invercargill and everything. It was a little hard leaving Waikato, and my family was just around the corner from us, but it was a great opportunity for us both and for us to do our own thing. Now, we love it. We’d been married for two years at that point, so it was a good time for us.

Was it hard leaving a team and franchise you’ve been part of for so long though? 

I wanted to challenge myself with a change in environment, and I never really saw myself as a one franchise kind of person. I think I needed something fresh and new to challenge me. I was getting pretty stagnant in my netball. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure how many years of netball I had left in me. I was feeling quite old! But now I feel like I’ve added years to my netball life and the move reignited my love of netball, so I’m so happy. It’s a new location, new coaches, new people around me and a community who just love netball, and have our backs no matter what. We’re not in the greatest place on the ladder but they show up for us every time and support us. I love feeling part of that.

So yeah, I have to admit – life is pretty good right now!

That’s the balance we were talking about, right? That must be a constant battle, especially with the World Cup coming up this year! 

Yeah look, netball isn’t everything – but sometimes I have allowed it to be on the top of my priority list, and that’s fine. At times I feel guilty about it – like, ‘do I not care about my friends and family?’ – but no, it doesn’t mean that. I’m just allowing myself to say that this is important to me right now. And of course, in the off season it’s not netball 24/7!

But it’s a really exciting year!