Having already had a taste of top-flight domestic netball this year with the Tactix, Howick College year 13 netballer Amelia Walmsley will be linking up with the Pulse next year in the ANZ Premiership.
We caught up Amelia about her year in netball in 2021 and the future.
Congratulations on being selected in the 2022 Pulse squad. How did this opportunity come about?
I have always wanted to play in the ANZ premiership since a very young age, so when I found out that Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie was interested in having a conversation with me and offering a potential contract I was so excited. I had a big decision to make as I was not only offered something from the Pulse. So once I made my decision, being named in the team all became so real and it was just a really cool moment for me. I gave Yvette a call to let her know that I decided to sign with the Pulse for this year and immediately we were both so happy, I had a huge smile on my face. I was surprised that I had even managed to be offered a few options from a few franchises, but obviously playing with the Tactix for a little bit I knew it was something I was really hoping would happen.
You have been predominantly a Goal Shoot?
When I was little you did a rotation of positions to see which one you like and best suits you, so I did play every position then. However, as I grew older the shooting position was most dominant. From year 6 to year 8 I was more of a Goal Attack than a Goal Shoot. Ever since college, I have predominantly been a goal shoot with the odd goal attack exposure. This year especially, I have been making an effort to learn more about Goal Attack so that I can get back involved with this position. Yvette and I have discussed that it would be something we would work on during the 2022 season.
Tell us a bit about the stint with the Tactix – how did it come about and how you joined their environment and met the team?
I was about to walk inside a house to a bunch of my friends when my phone rang, it was Bubby (my Comets coach) saying that the Tactix Coach had called her to get my contact details so that she could call me to let me know that she’d like me to play for them in their Monday game against the Steel. I just remember being in complete and utter shock, but once I realised what was happening, I was so excited. I got a call from the Tactix manager later that night where she got all my details and booked me the next flight to Christchurch. The next morning, I caught an 8am flight to Christchurch, to land and be taken straight to the training complex where I met the team and did my first ever training with them. That afternoon we flew to Nelson for our game the next day. It all happened fast, so I didn’t really have any time to get nervous, on the flight I just remembered writing down my goals for the short time I was with them and wrote down a quote to remind me to not overthink anything, be myself and have fun.
How long were you with the Tactix squad for, and how did that fit in with school in Auckland?
I was with the Tactix for two individual week-long contracts, and a 12-day contract. Due to still being at school, they were very aware of this, and I would usually return to Auckland and school after a few days of training and the game with them. I got on court for 3 out of the 5 games I was with them. During the 12-day contract, I stayed in Christchurch throughout the entire time, this did not affect my school as for 10 days of this contract it was school holidays.
How did you find the ‘step up’ to playing in the ANZ Premiership?
It was more competitive, more aggressive, and the intensity was higher, but it was nothing I wasn’t prepared for or expecting. The training sessions were longer and more intense, and there was lots more lead up to the game than I have experienced in the other teams I had played for. For example, getting to the stadium a couple hours before the game, etc. A difference that stood out to me most was the after-game experience of doing autographs and taking photos with people. The first time a little girl asked for a photo with me, I was so confused and asked her what other Tactix girls she wanted in the photo, and she said just you, and I remember being quite stunned with all that stuff initially.
Was there a single ‘highlight’?
I loved every part of being with Tactix, however when I made my debut and scored my first goal for them, that was a special moment that I will never forget, so that is definitely a highlight from my stint with them. Another little highlight is when I got on court for a couple minutes in the Magic game. I remember the buzzer going off and a penalty shot had to be taken very close to the edge of the shooting circle. I remember thinking in my head, ‘you better get this in’ haha. And I did and the crowd was cheering, Marianne was happy, and I really enjoyed that moment.
This year you were also playing for the Northern Comets in the National League – tell us a bit about that?
It was my first season with the Northern Comets. A highlight from the team was the amazing team culture we had. We did this cool thing where we would all muck around together, laugh and then when it came to it, we knew how to switch from that into training mode, game mode, etc. Our team was fun. Another highlight is most definitely the fact that Bubby and Mitchy are two very knowledgeable coaches who taught us all so much, but they also knew how to have fun and have a laugh. A highlight was the results of our games for sure, that reflected the hard work we were putting in. It was always nice at the end of games to see the scores and remind us that we worked hard and fought hard for this, and the score would always be our reward for this. Our entire season was a highlight, a newly introduced, underestimated team was undefeated throughout the season right up to the end when our Northern Sisters [Marvels] won the final. We had an amazing season.
What other representative teams have you played in over the past couple of years?
I have been involved in reps teams for Howick Pakuranga over the past few years. I took a break from it this year as all my other netball and school was very busy. A highlight from throughout my rep seasons was when I played in the U15a team in 2019. Tournaments and nationals were so fun with this team, and we all had really good on court and off court bonds. After nationals week with this team, I was also asked to play for the U17a team in their nationals week the following week. That was two hard core weeks of straight netball, but it was definitely a highlight for me throughout my rep seasons.
It’s a real shame that UNISS was cancelled and now the NZSS Champs have been cancelled this year. We can’t do anything about lockdowns and the current situation there, but on behalf of your team and other players, how disappointing is it not have the chance to play in either these tournaments?
My teammates and I were so gutted when we found out both UNISS and Nationals were cancelled. However, due to the current circumstances with Covid it wasn’t something that took us by complete surprise. Luckily earlier this year St Peter’s School hosted an invitational tournament that we attended, so at least we got to play in some form of tournament environment together.
Up until a few weeks ago, there was a full season of netball in Auckland school competitions. Howick were due to play a semi-final a couple of weeks ago when lockdown struck. Were you playing for your school this year too?
I played close to all games for the Premier 1 Howick college team this season, but for a few games I had managed minutes due to loading as Comets games were sometimes the next day. I missed one game for this team as I was away with the Tactix but my school and my coach were very supportive of this as they knew it was an amazing opportunity. It is tough that the competition was cancelled, we only had one game in the semi and potentially another game in the final which we were all so pumped for.
Do you also play for a club in Auckland?
I played in the Shelly Park Senior 1 team for the club this year. I played games for them when I could due to loading with all my other teams, but this was managed well as my school coach was also the coach of the club team I played for. We were doing very well in the season, and I think we were potentially going to be playing in the final which I think was cancelled due to Covid.
Do you have an early memory playing or watching netball that stands out?
I did Fun Ferns at the age of 4 which was basically a fun introduction to netball for little kids. From there obviously I fell in love with the sport and here I am, many years later still playing. I remember at a young age going to watch a Mystics game and remember being obsessed with Maria Tutaia, who is now named Maria Folau. She was definitely my childhood idol.
What are your favourite school subjects, and will you be looking at studying as well next year?
My favourite school subjects are DVC, Textiles, and PE. I do stats and bio too, but my other three subjects are my most favourite subjects. I am looking to get work experience in the interior design and/ or architecture industry whilst in Wellington first as these are careers I have been set on for the past year. But I want to make sure it is something I really enjoy before I leap into university. If all goes well, I am looking to potentially pick up a degree in one of the two areas in the second semester when I am back in Auckland next year.
Are you managing to both attend school virtually and train for netball from home during the current lockdown?
It is tough to find motivation initially, but I know I have to do it so I write down my weekly schedule at the beginning of each week so I can tick things off and feel a sense of accomplishment, ensuring I manage my time and complete all training and schoolwork I need to. I am managing to do this effectively as I have gotten into the routine of completing my schoolwork between 9am and 3pm, which I then usually do in the afternoon or sometimes at night.
Thank you for talking to us and good luck for next year and beyond!
Interview and story by Steven White, for College Sport Media, September 2021.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand