Late mother inspiration for Christie

Ivari Christie looks for her shooter Grace Namana during a Southern Steel game. PHOTO: MICHAEL...
Ivari Christie looks for her shooter Grace Namana during a Southern Steel game. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Ivari Christie is coming into her own for the Southern Steel this year. But it has not come without hardship and a lesson in self belief, Kayla Hodge reports.

Ivari Christie stands on the shoulders of powerful women who believed in her.

It is a long list that has grown through the years, but the woman at the top is the most important of them all, her late-mother, Cheryl Davies.

Christie, 20, was just 15 when her mother died from cancer in 2019 and she would be proud of her daughter’s trajectory in her second season with the Southern Steel.

"I think about how she would have reacted — it’s so crazy", Christie said.

"Netball is definitely mine and her thing."

Naturally an introvert, netball helped Christie come out of her shell — and her mother played a big part in that.

Christie started playing netball in Thames — "I used to watch my mum play there" — and later at primary school when her family moved to Auckland.

Her mother coached her initially, and when Christie’s family moved to Hamilton when she was nearing the end of primary school, Christie made her first representative team.

While Davies took a step back from coaching her daughter, she was there to guide her every step of the way and saw Christie’s potential even when Christie did not believe in herself.

When Christie was in year 9 at Hamilton Girls’, she trialled for the premier team, and while she was not initially selected, her skill set for the junior team caught the selectors’ attention, and they took her to the Upper North Island secondary schools tournament.

"Obviously my Mum was super proud. It definitely played into it all."

That belief helped Christie as she navigated through playing school, representative and Maori netball, and even when her mother was getting cancer treatment, she still encouraged Christie to work hard and grasp every opportunity.

"Especially when I got to high school, she believed in me a lot more than I think I realised back then", Christie said.

"She basically said ‘there’s no harm in trying; if you don’t make it, you don’t make it’.

"Her belief in me, it wasn’t overpowering, [but] it definitely got to me."

After Davies died, Hamilton Girls’ named their premier netball MVP award after her — and Christie was the inaugural recipient.

Christie’s connection with the Steel also started while she was at Hamilton Girls’, when her coach, Kim Howard — now assistant coach of the Central Pulse — asked if she would be interested in an ANZ Premiership contract.

"She came back ... and said ‘I’ve talked to people at the Steel and they could be interested in you."

The midcourter signed as a training partner in 2022 and was elevated to full-time last year in place of Shannon Saunders, who was expecting her first child.

Steel coach Reinga Bloxham threw her support behind Christie, as has Saunders, and their unwavering help had been instrumental.

"It’s so nice because I’m obviously a very quiet person, so sometimes if I don’t think I’ll do it, I won’t push myself", Christie said.

"But they obviously believe in me ... and they’re very good at understanding how I learn. It’s been so good; it’s helped me so much."

Christie has relished learning from Saunders this season at wing attack and was gutted Saunders had been ruled out of the rest of the season with a knee injury.

But Saunders had plenty of faith in her understudy to step up as the first choice.

"Ivari has done amazingly each time she has taken the court", Saunders said.

"I think her confidence is growing every week and she has been great at putting her learnings out there in the actual games.

"I have full confidence she will take that WA position with two hands and make it her own and I'm there to support her every step of the way."

For now, Christie’s focus remained on the Steel’s season, but she still harboured a dream of playing for the Silver Ferns one day, having grown up watching them with her mother.

"Things happen. If I can make them happen, then I’ll make them happen."

ANZ Premiership

Tomorrow, Rangiora, 4pm

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

Mainland Tactix:  Ellie Bird, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Jess Allan, Kimiora Poi, Erikana Pederson, Greer Sinclair, Paris Lokotui, Kate Llyod, Karin Burger, Jane Watson.