Jessica Tuki's code switch is working wonders

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014
Jessica Tuki
Photosport
CHANGE OF HEART: Hamilton's Jessica Tuki has fallen out of love with netball and has now made the Tall Ferns basketball team.

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Jessica Tuki's netball career is over, with a callup to the Tall Ferns basketball team helping her decide her fate.

The 26-year-old was yesterday selected in the national side for a four-nation tournament in China later this month, having impressed in her code switch after more than a decade on the netball court which included three caps for the Silver Ferns.

The former Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic utility (Tuki played in all seven positions for them) made a move to the shooting circle last year to try and revive her passion for the sport. Then at the start of this year, out of the blue, she got a call to fill in for the injured Anna Harrison at the Northern Mystics, and made a few appearances in the defensive end.

However, Tuki found she had truly lost her desire for netball.

"At the moment it's not in my near future. I've fallen out of love, I guess, with the game," she said.

"I've had a very long journey with it and it's been a very up and down journey. I just feel like I needed a break from it, I needed some time out, and I needed to reflect if that's really what I wanted to do in life.

"I don't feel like you can play that game if you don't have the love for it. It's a lot of time and a lot of energy and if you're not 100 per cent committed to it you can't expect the results."

Tuki had already decided she was going to take 2015 off and then reassess, but said this basketball opportunity had reignited a passion she had for the sport that she played while at school.

Last September former Tall Fern and current Waikato women's captain Leanne Walker had gone to a Hamilton netball training to run a session on screening, and Tuki exchanged numbers with her to keep in touch about any prospective opportunities there were in basketball.

"She just kept me up to date and then this year just said: 'come along to these trainings' and little did I know it was the Waikato women's team," Tuki said, now aware that there weren't many opportunities to work her way up.

"To be fair, women's basketball, there isn't a lot going for it. In Hamilton there's no club league, it's a bunch of girls that all sort of know each other and might text around for a scrimmage game.

"There's no real set structure to it, which is really sad. So once you finish school there's not a lot of game time out there to be had."

With three national tournaments held during the year, Tuki was available for the last two, earning a Tall Ferns trial spot, then finding out she would make the trip to China.

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"It's all come very fast and [it's] a very big shock to the system," she said.

Tuki is one of eight debutantes in the 12 who will face a steep learning curve against China, Slovenia and a WNBA All Star team, as they eye up the 2018 Commonwealth Games (with the 2016 Olympics subject to qualification).

"It's pretty daunting.

"For myself, I've always sort of been the tall girl at basketball. So now, to be potentially faced with a [6ft 5in] girl or something from America, it's going to be an awesome challenge. It's going to be just a really great learning curve, great development for myself.

"I know there's a lot of talk about there being players that were unavailable for selection and everything like that, but, you know, when you get given an opportunity like this you just take it with both hands and you roll with it."

Tuki has found the transition from netball not too bad, but feels she needs to strengthen up a bit, while she admits her skills are a bit rusty and not where she wants them to be.

But she is hoping to hone them at the Tall Ferns' camp in Christchurch, with the team together for a week before departing for China next Tuesday.

Tall Ferns: Jessica Bygate (Dickinson State University), Shea Crotty (Canterbury Wildcats), Antonia Edmondson (West Coast Waves), Kate Fielding (West Coast Waves), Deena Franklin (North Harbour Breeze), Samara Gallaher (Oceana Gold Rush), Krystal Leger-Walker (Waikato Wizards/Junior Tall Ferns), Natasha Lenden (Waikato Wizards), Josephine Stockill (Collgate University), Dru Toleafoa (Junior Tall Ferns), Jessica Tuki (Waikato Wizards), Maia Wilson (Waitakere West Lady Rangers/Junior Tall Ferns).

- Waikato Times

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