Change of name, but goal is the same
Casey Williams is now Casey Kopua after marrying during her two-month break, writes Aaron Goile.
The name might be different, but it's still the same old Casey who will be turning out for the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic trans-Tasman ANZ Championship netball team this season.
After marrying Hamilton City Tigers rugby league player Terry Kopua last month, Casey Kopua (nee Williams) is taking the court as an officially new woman this year.
But marriage hasn't stifled the 27-year-old's super competitiveness, or cured her dodgy knees.
Having not ventured away on honeymoon yet, the Silver Ferns captain is returning from a nice time away from the sport.
"Having a break like that, it makes you refreshed," Kopua said of her couple of months off.
"Also, not just physically, but mentally as well."
The four Ferns players in the Magic's squad got back into training on January 7 and Kopua described it as a "bang and a wakeup call".
"It was a long, intense session of getting back into things. Everybody had a good break over Christmas and New Year, and that's what that time's for. The fun part is sort of over now, it's business time, but [I'm] still enjoying it along the way."
Kopua met some of the squad for the first time at that opening session and while there haven't been any "initiations yet, as such" for the new players, they have instead been put to the test against some of the superstars of the sport.
"Obviously you are shy and you are intimidated, because I know how that feels when you first arrive on the scene," Kopua said.
"But pretty much you've got to get amongst it otherwise you're going to get left behind. We've set the expectations and the benchmark for our team and they can't do any less than that.
"I think they are still a bit shy and still a little bit on edge. But I think for starters they're doing a really good job."
And there's no taking it easy against the new ones on the training court, with Kopua giving them one free pass before going full on.
"I think the first one on the Monday you didn't want to do anything, but from then on, they had one chance and that was it."
Kopua is still having to take precautions with her knees, with each of them suffering from tendinitis for about a decade.
Last year she was sidelined for a chunk of the Ferns season, as well as the Fast5 tournament at the end of the year.
Although she has been able to complete all her on and off-court training, Kopua believes she will still need to be managed during the season.
"I think there will be some days that I just need to pull back a little bit."
After the Magic's impressive efforts of last year, when they came from a 0-4 start to claim the ANZ Championship in stunning fashion, they will be aiming to break new ground by being the first defending champion to make the playoffs the next season.
Kopua said coach Noeline Taurua had already introduced some new ideas to ensure the team keeps evolving.
"There's a few things that we're doing that we're just keeping secret to ourselves.
"We can't do the same thing every year otherwise we'll get beaten. So we have to change it up and we have to be fitter and faster and stronger, and I think we can do that by what Noels has in store for us."