Wilkins adds to formidable Central Pulse lineup
Star Central Pulse recruit Donna Wilkins says she will commute north to Wellington next season because the franchise has a genuine shot at winning the trans-Tasman league.
Her signature, and her statement, demonstrates just how much progress the Pulse have made on and off the court under decorated coach Robyn Broughton.
Wilkins, a 34-year-old former Silver Fern and a mother of three, headlines the class of 2013, along with another former Silver Fern in midcourter Liana Leota.
With Katrina Grant, Joline Henry, Caitlin Thwaites, Camilla Lees and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit all back on board following yesterday's squad announcement, the former competition easybeats are suddenly formidable.
"Because I am getting a bit older, I want to have an opportunity at winning the championship," Wilkins said from her farm in Southland.
"I probably don't have many years left in me. So with the Pulse doing so well in 2012 . . . and they've also got some high profile players, which the Steel probably didn't have. So this is just a good opportunity to have a run at the title."
Wilkins - who shot 90 per cent for the Steel this year - said her long association with Broughton "definitely played a part" in signing with the Pulse.
"I've got a great relationship with Rob and she coached me for a long time and has been very successful. That's nice but the major drawcard for me - I know it sounds really crazy - but for me there's less travel," Wilkins said.
"Because I'll be commuting, I'm going to have a meeting with Rob and go through the draw and have a good look at it. But I'll be coming up midweek, training that day, training the next day and then coming home.
"So not only do I get to play netball at the elite level, I get to be a mum as well. That was pretty huge for us as a family."
Wilkins said the Pulse's flexible approach would mean less travel compared with driving to and from trainings in Dunedin and Invercargill with the Steel.
"Because I'm in the middle of nowhere on a farm so I have to drive to both."
With Lees and Leota providing the service, Grant and Henry the leadership, and Thwaites a solid shooting partner, Wilkins said she would be able to simply "concentrate on my own job".
"Over the last couple of years my own game's probably slipped a bit in the fact I'm trying to do too much instead of just doing what a good goal attack should do. So there's an opportunity to be able to do that this season."
Silver Ferns defender Grant has retained the captaincy while Henry will return following the birth of her baby in the new year.
Leota, the competition's MVP in 2010, has been living in England with husband Johnny, a professional rugby player with the Sale Sharks. Former New Zealand under-21 midcourter Claire Kersten is the new face.
Broughton was delighted with the composition of her squad, while general manager Kyla Lange said the side was capable of making the playoffs.
"Five wins and several close losses represented a significant step forward for the Pulse," Lange said.
"Retaining the core of last year's team was vital for continuity and the addition of proven internationals such as Donna and Liana will help us to achieve our goal of making the playoffs."
Central Pulse: Katrina Grant (c), Joline Henry (vc), Amber Bellringer, Paula Griffin, Claire Kersten, Camilla Lees, Liana Leota, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Victoria Smith, Caitlin Thwaites, Daya Wiffen, Donna Wilkins