The player Netball New Zealand never wanted is about to become inescapable.
Towering defender Vilimaina Davu has forced her way past Netball NZ's eligibility committee to link with the talent-packed Northern Mystics, and will be the face of weight-loss franchise Jenny Craig in an advert that starts screening in about two weeks.
Davu, who stands 1.90m, was the subject of stinging criticism when taking the court as player-coach for injury-hit Fiji at last November's world championships in Auckland. She was obviously overweight and unfit after retiring from netball in 2007.
After that tournament her father died. He collapsed at the airport when welcoming home the Fiji team.
"I'm glad I'm a strong person," Davu, 31, told the Sunday Star-Times.
"I have to get on with my life and move on and I know my Dad would be proud of me. He always told me that you'll be put down, you'll be disappointed at some stage but it's a matter of getting up and keeping going and I did."
She said the criticisms "made me a better person and grow an inch taller . . . you have to have a strong personality to get over things like that. You have to have obstacles to overcome in life and I've done that."
Davu, the most intimidating defender in world netball when at her peak, said Jenny Craig's programmes had enabled her to shed the unwanted kilos, but laughingly declined to put a figure on how much she had lost.
"I'm looking great now compared to last year and I feel good about that.
"It's all about eating healthy and training hard. I'm about 75% fit at the moment. When I'm 100% I'll be firing. I had been an elite athlete for six years so when my body started to change I knew I had to do something about it."
Netball NZ had major concerns over Davu's weight and fitness, arguing that a Kiwi under-21 international should be considered first as the Mystics already had incumbent Silvers Ferns defenders Leana du Bruin and Sheryl Scanlan, plus former Auckland Diamonds skipper Stephanie Bond.
"Watch out for the Mystics defence, it will be hard to break in this competition," Davu said.
- Sunday Star Times