Mikaere keen on growing Aussie links

Erena Mikaere jumps the shot of Northern Stars shooter Amorangi Malesala during an ANZ...
Erena Mikaere jumps the shot of Northern Stars shooter Amorangi Malesala during an ANZ Premiership game. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
You will not find a better netball character than Erena Mikaere.

The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic defender’s larger-than-life personality and carefully crafted wit lights up any room she walks into.

But all that persona is backed up with a deep knowledge and drive for the game to make it the best it can be.

Whether that means the ANZ Premiership combines for a cross-over competition with Australia remains to be seen — but either way, Mikaere wants to see netball continue to flourish.

Mikaere, 35, started her career with the Magic before moving down to the Southern Steel in 2014.

The 1.92m defender then jumped across to Australia plying her trade with the West Coast Fever, won two Suncorp Super Netball titles with the Sunshine Coast Lightning — under Silver Fern and former Steel coach Noeline Taurua — and then returned home to the Northern Mystics and finally landed back at the Magic four years ago.

It has been quite the journey for Mikaere and each team have played a big part in making her the player she is today, including the Steel.

She looked back at her time with the franchise with admiration having played alongside Silver Fern Phoenix Karaka, training against Jhaniele Fowler and stalwarts Wendy Frew and Rachel Rasmussen.

"I forever keep lots of those girls in my heart," Mikaere said.

"It was quite a formidable team, but I don’t think we realised our potential at the time.

"Never have anything bad to say about the South — I loved my time here."

She returned to Dunedin for the recent preseason Southern Showdown and loved seeing the strong turn out at the Edgar Centre to support netball.

"The fact Steel has a rough season last year but their fans are still here. I love this loyalty and it was here when I was here."

Mikaere had a "fairy tale" two years at the Lightning and played alongside former England, Australian and Silver Ferns captains Geva Mentor, Caitlin Bassett and Laura Langman.

"That team was fierce on court but fiercely loyal off court.

"The connections were unreal and I lived on the Sunshine Coast — not a bad place to be and play netball for your living," Mikaere laughed.

It was those connections across the teams she had been involved in that stuck with her, not the games they won or lost.

"Yes we want to win, and yes we all play our guts out to win, and fight for the ball.

"But at the end of the day, [if] something was to happen to someone, you remember the person they are, not the game that they played."

Mikaere had a good grasp on netball both here and across the tasman, and acknowledged there was a difference between the two competitions.

Australian netballers pushed for their facilities and support systems to be professional and she felt that had changed slightly in New Zealand since the transtasman ANZ Championship was abandoned — but could not put her finger on why.

The Melbourne Vixens and Queensland Firebirds played preseason games against New Zealand franchises and the Kiwis still proved they could beat them, she said.

Asked if she would like to see it revert back to the cross-over competition, Mikaere said she would love it.

"More so, not for me, but for the future of netball.

"My daughter’s playing, I would love her to have that experience.

"You get to go there and play netball, and they get to come here . . . they enjoy the culture.

"It changes the way everything happens — happy players, happy people."

But if that was not to be, Mikaere said New Zealand needed to champion the ANZ Premiership and the platform it gave the sport.

"We need to back the fact we are still creating good netball.

"I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a bad way either way.

"Whatever happens — so long as netball’s being played."