Netball: Tairi already benefiting from change

Courtney Tairi hopes to lead the Southern Steel to a bright season. Photo by Dianne Manson.
Courtney Tairi hopes to lead the Southern Steel to a bright season. Photo by Dianne Manson.
Steel midcourter Courtney Tairi is not planning on shelving her one-handed pass and she is unlikely to lose the Australian twang any time soon.

But the 23-year-old Australian-born player's move from Sydney to Invercargill has already paid dividends. She has not played in a competitive game for her new franchise yet but the former New South Wales Swifts player has been added to the New Zealand accelerant squad.

Tairi, who is of Maori descent, is eligible to play for New Zealand and Australia and admits some mixed loyalties.

"I usually just go for whoever is not winning, because I feel sorry for them," Tairi said.

Tairi's mother is from Invercargill, her father from Cambridge, and the family used to return to New Zealand "all the time" when she was younger.

So there is a close affinity with New Zealand. Her decision to accept an invitation to train with the Silver Ferns can only been seen as positive, although she was coy earlier in the year when asked about her allegiances.

The decision to leave the Swifts for the Steel had occupied her thoughts and she had not given much though to whether she would make herself available for New Zealand.

"It was a very hard decision," she said about the move to the Steel.

" You kind of want to stay with the team you are with but the Steel were developing a new team and had some real young players.

"I guess they are starting a new era where they are trying to build the franchise and a team now and carry it through for a couple of years, so I was excited to be part of that."

It was also an opportunity to get on court more and a chance to play a different style of netball, she said.

"With the Swifts, I'd play a few then miss a few, so for me I just want to play netball week-in week-out."

Steel co-coach Natalie Avellino made the initial approach. When Tairi expressed some interest, the Steel moved quickly, calling back a week later.

"When the opportunity presented itself, I was really excited to take it up."

Tairi has family in Invercargill, where she will be based. She flats with Steel shooter Ashley Smith and is enjoying the change of pace.

She describes herself as "a homebody and "pretty quiet", life in Invercargill is not too dull after the bright lights of Sydney.

Tairi's first objective is to have a strong pre-season and cement a spot in the midcourt.

With a new coaching team and only three players returning, the Steel has a lot to absorb as it seeks to improve on last season's seventh placing.

"Every team in the competition wants to win and we want to win as badly as anyone else. We've got quite a few experienced players and some up and coming ones, so I think it will be a good combination," Tairi said.