Central Pulse wing defence Joline Henry is up for the challenge of juggling baby care with trans-Tasman netball training. Hamish Bidwell reports.
People are going to have to wait a while to see the real Joline Henry.
The dynamic and abrasive Central Pulse wing defence gave birth to a boy just five weeks ago and some post-delivery complications mean she's yet to resume anything like full training.
Henry flew down to Wellington from her home in Hamilton yesterday, hoping to be able to do some gentle catching and passing at Pulse training and perhaps break into a light jog.
The Pulse's trans-Tasman netball league campaign begins in Adelaide on March 24 and Henry refuses to revise her long-stated plan of being available to play.
"I'm just trying to get the body back to where it's safe to do the netball stuff and at the moment it's not quite there," Henry said yesterday.
So the 30-year-old is on a carefully managed rehabilitation programme that's been designed in conjunction with her midwife, Silver Ferns management and specialists at Waikato Hospital.
Realistically, Henry sounds like she'll miss the round one clash with the Thunderbirds, but she'll aim for it just the same.
"I'm not going to be myself for maybe the first five games that I'm on court, but that'll come with time," she said.
Which is a remarkably relaxed attitude for someone as famously proud and competitive as Henry.
"But it's like going to gym in the morning.
"My optimal time was 10 o'clock in the morning because I'd get to wake up, I'd get to have breakfast and feel charged and that's just not a reality with a 5-week-old child.
"Sometimes during the day I don't even get to go because no-one's there to take him.
"I have expectations of myself and I will be doing the very best that I can do for this team, but also making sure that my son's good," she said.
"I might not get back where I was and get back to myself until the end of the season, but that's when it'll matter because we'll be in the semis."
No, that's not a misprint but Henry's strongly held view of the heights the Pulse can scale this season.
"Yeah, I plan on being in the semis with this lot. I never said that last year."
Personnel-wise, the only additions are goal attack Donna Wilkins and wing attack Liana Leota. But they're enough, Henry said.
"We've recruited really well in positions that will make a difference for us. On top of the people we had, that gives us different options.
"These guys [Wilkins and Leota] are seasoned, they know how to win games, they've been Silver Ferns ... and I believe they are the best in their positions in New Zealand at the moment."
That's a big call, but Henry did not blink when asked if she was sure she believed that. In fact, she went on to talk about how disappointed she'd be if the team did not make the league playoffs.
As she alluded to, Henry was never hugely complimentary about last year's side.
She clearly regards this one differently and now faces the big challenge of getting herself in the right shape to justify being part of it.
"What I'm lucky with is that Pulse management and the Silver Ferns are concerned about me and my health long term and making sure that I can still play well."
Beyond the Pulse, Henry has targeted a return to the Silver Ferns this year and to then participate in the Commonwealth Games and world championships in the years that follow.
"Absolutely, I've made that quite clear."
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