Netball: Following dream comes at a cost

Southern Steel goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler jumps high for the ball during her team's pre-season game against the NZPA Legends team at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin on Saturday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Southern Steel goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler jumps high for the ball during her team's pre-season game against the NZPA Legends team at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin on Saturday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The problem with having a dream is it usually involves some kind of sacrifice.

That is certainly the case for towering Jamaican shooter and Steel recruit Jhaniele Fowler.

It has been her dream to play in the ANZ Championship and she leaped at the opportunity to play for the Steel when coach Janine Southby made the approach.

But the tallest player in the competition has had to give up more than most. She has left behind 3-year-old daughter Drehannah and partner Andre Reid. She will also miss out on Jamaica's series against England in April.

''When I see kids around, it tears me up a lot,'' Fowler said.

''It is hard knowing she is back home and I'm here. But I'm trying to give this a go.

''We Skype a lot and we talk over the phone a lot.''

On a happier note, the 23-year-old has a rather exciting event planned for December. Fowler and Reid are getting married, and when asked how preparations were going, a broad smile was followed by a shy giggle and a brief explanation.

''Who told you that?'' she laughed.

''Yes, I'm getting married.

''It is a long story. We've been together over five years now,'' she replied when asked about their romance.

As hard as it must be to focus, right now her attention is on netball and the Steel's campaign.

The team's opening game is against the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane on Sunday and Fowler is looking forward to her debut.

''It means a real lot. I've always wanted to play elite netball and having a chance to play in the best league in the world is awesome.''

Fowler arrived in Invercargill in late January and has been pleasantly surprised by the weather, although most days have been like winter in tropical Jamaica.

Everyone recognises her, of course. There are not too many almost 2m tall Jamaican women spotted on Dee St.

''I stick out, of course. But the people are warm and welcoming. People come up and say 'Hi' and know who I am already.''

Fowler was outstanding in the Steel's hit-out against the NZPA Legends team in Dunedin on Saturday.

She landed 43 of her 47 attempts on goal and her height makes getting her the ball a relatively simple process of lobbing it in her direction.

Steel captain and fellow shooter Jodi Brown is one of the best passing goal attacks in world netball and she quickly racked up the assists, hurling in passes from all over the court.

The length of Fowler's stride means she basically shoots nine out of every 10 shots from right under the net. Shooting is a loose description, really. At her height, she can put the ball in with the help of a little skip.

While her combination with Brown is still a work in progress, Fowler is optimistic about the season ahead.

''Our goal is to make the top six and I think we are well on our way to get there.''