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In May last year, the Central Pulse mid-courter faced her greatest obstacle yet, after she ruptured her anterior-cruciate ligament in her left knee against the Southern Steel.
Now eight months after surgery, the 21-year-old has moved to Christchurch, and will be playing for Mainland in the National Netball League.
“I came down here in the last week of January, and decided at the start of February I wanted to move, so [the decision] was quite recent,” she said.
“[Netball Mainland] have a really good support system down here and I thought I would grow as a person living in a new environment as well.”
In Wellington, Lokotui made her mark in the Queen Margaret College senior A team, before being selected in the Central Manawa team during her last two years of school in 2018 and 2019.
In September 2021, Lokotui was selected in the Silver Ferns squad to play the Taini Jamison series against England but did not get on the court. She looked to be in contention for last year’s Commonwealth Games squad before injury struck.
She is now in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Commerce, with a minor in te reo Māori, at Victoria University and hopes to study and work while playing netball in Christchurch. But her main focus is getting back on the court. Mainland coach Tania Hoffman said
Lokotui’s move was slightly unexpected, but she is excited about what she’ll bring to the young team this year.
“It was a lovely surprise. Being able to call on someone with her experience is great for all the other players and, for Paris, it’s a good way to return to professional netball,” Hoffman said.
With just five Mainland players returning to the side from last year’s squad, Lokotui will be a key leader within the young and inexperienced team.
She said watching the Silver Ferns’ success at the Commonwealth Games was a motivation to work harder as she completes her final stages of rehabilitation over the next few weeks.
“It really fuelled the fire to get back to where I was. I was so close, and the good thing about an injury is that it kind of fuels that fire behind close doors.”
Although it’s a while away yet, Lokotui said staying in Christchurch next year and a potential stint with the Tactix is a possibility.
“There’s so many positives about moving away from home. I just want to enjoy myself wherever I am and play some good netball,” she said.
Another reason for Lokotui’s move to Christchurch is to spend time with her brother Cody who is in his second year at the Crusaders Academy.
“I came to visit him in the middle of December, and I realised how much I missed him.”
Their father Lua Lokotui played rugby for Tonga in two World Cups. The family often share lessons from their sporting experiences to help each other out. “Having someone so close to me who’s been involved in high-performance sport, it’s been really good.
I’m really grateful for my dad’s support,” she said.
The humble but determined Lokotui said her goals for the year are simple: “To play a full game and [make] sure I take every opportunity as it comes.”
- Mainland’s first game in the National Netball League will be against the Marvels and broadcast live on Sky Sport from Christchurch Arena at 2pm on March 12. It will be the curtainraiser to the Mainland Tactix v Northern Mystics.
-By Jaime Cunningham