Fifita pleasantly surprised at how she has ‘slotted in’

Southern Steel goal keep Taneisha Fifita defends the shot of Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic shooter...
Southern Steel goal keep Taneisha Fifita defends the shot of Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic shooter Saviour Tui during an ANZ Premiership game last month. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Taneisha Fifita is grateful for the way her life has blended together.

The Southern Steel defender’s career was on the rise when she decided to step away from the sport altogether in 2022.

Inspired by her younger sister, Losa, Fifita left Invercargill to serve her fulltime mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Brisbane for 18 months.

"I’m really a very religious person ... so I’m so grateful that I was able to do that service and give back," Fifita said.

Fifita, 23, travelled throughout Queensland on her mission, walking the streets, helping anyone in need and trying to set a good example for their community.

"There’s a lot of bad things that happen nowadays and sometimes it’s just good to be that little help, little light to someone's day."

Her sister — another defender who was a Steel training partner — also put her netball career on hold to head to Utah for her mission this year.

"I’m very proud of her. She’s actually the example for me because she always wanted to do it."

Netball has always been a big part of Fifita’s life, and while she always wanted to return to top level netball, she did not know if it would be possible.

She wanted to see if her body could still handle it, having not trained while completing her mission, and she was very grateful the Steel welcomed her back with open arms.

"It’s honestly very special because I really didn’t think I’d be able to come back," Fifita said.

"It just shows that everything happens for a reason.

"I actually kind of missed netball in general. All the hard work and the excitement."

Fifita acknowledged it had been tough to adapt back into her netball ways, but she was loving working with Abby Lawson again — they previously played for the Steel together — and South African Jeante Strydom in the defensive circle.

"I feel like I’ve just slotted in quite well coming back. Everyone’s coming back this year.

"It doesn’t really feel like a change, but it’s great to be back and seeing the connections still there from the past."

She had her best game of the season last week when the Steel beat the Mystics 47-43 and it marked a special game for Fifita, winning the Georgina Salter memorial trophy.

Salter discovered Fifita when she was coaching the defender, who was a shooter back then, at Waitaki Girls’ in her hometown of Oamaru.

Winning the trophy was a touching moment for Fifita.

"It actually means a lot for me.

"She was an amazing person. She helped me a lot, and obviously the family as well, and helped me get to where I am today."

Fifita will have another task on her hands this afternoon when the Steel play the Central Pulse in Invercargill.

The Pulse are a different side from that which the Steel played in round three, when they lost 54-46.

They are without Silver Ferns shooter Amelia Walmsley, midcourter Maddy Gordon and, as of yesterday, shooter Khiarna Williams, all three of whom are set for lengthy injury spells.

Silver Fern shooter Tiana Metuarau is also absent through injury.

ANZ Premiership

Today, Invercargill, 4pm

Southern Steel: Grace Namana, Georgia Heffernan, Kate Heffernan, Serina Daunakamakama, Ivari Christie, Renee Savai’inaea, Jeante Strydom, Abby Lawson, Taneisha Fifita.

Central Pulse: Martina Salmon, Kiana Pelasio, Khiarna Williams, Whitney Souness, Paris Petera, Clare Kersten, Parris Mason, Kelea Iongi, Fa’amu Ioane, Kelly Jackson.