Rising Tactix shooting talent has backing of brother Dominic Bird
Mainland Tactix rookie Ellie Bird is earning plenty of plaudits, but there's no bigger supporter than older brother, Chiefs lock Dominic Bird.
The 24-year-old goal shoot has been highly impressive in her three showings for the winless Tactix, since being promoted from their second tier Beko League team.
Bird has landed 86/100 and started for the first time in Monday's ANZ Premiership loss to the Central Pulse, playing the full game.
Dominic has been tuning in to follow Ellie's performances and only been too happy to provide advice about the transition to the elite ranks.
"He's really good. He's so proud of me. He's like 'Now I know what it's like when you watched my first few [rugby] games," Ellie said.
"He's really helpful. Previously he's written training programmes and things for me."
Ellie is the middle of the three Bird siblings, with younger sister, Jess, playing for the Yarra Ariels in the Victorian Netball League in Melbourne.
She said Dominic wasn't too critical of her play and gave constructive feedback.
"I don't know if I'd call him a netball fan, but he watches me and really enjoyed watching my games. I don't think he'd be watching if me and my sister weren't playing."
At 1.94m, Bird is the second tallest player in the competition, outside only Southern Steel's Jamaican star Jhaniele Fowler-Reid [1.98m].
The Tactix franchise haven't had much to be excited about, but in Bird they possess a valuable target and accurate shooter they can build around for the future.
Shooters of her height are rare in this country making Bird an intriguing long-term prospect.
Bird's rise is remarkable considering she was playing second grade for the Wellington East club last year, following surgery. She previously turned out for their premier side, while balancing her studies.
Her move south was partly brought about by Tactix coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek, who formerly mentored her with the Wellington NPC team.
Bird gained a sports scholarship to Lincoln University, where she is in the final year of her Bachelor of Science, majoring in environmental studies.
Having mother, Sally, living in Christchurch, who was at Horncastle Arena for her home debut against the Pulse, was also a drawcard.
Raised in Waipukurau in Central Hawke's Bay, Bird played senior A netball at Iona College in Havelock North, but never starred or took the sport too seriously.
She played age-group representative level for the Central zone and got her chance with the Wellington NPC side in 2013.
Bird was content running around for Mainland's Beko team, but her shooting volume and rebounding were so outstanding, the Tactix came calling.
Before taking the court against the Northern Mystics in her first match, she was a bundle of nerves, but is becoming more comfortable.
"I wasn't really expecting it, but when Marianne said 'Ellie put the goal shoot bib on, then I started freaking out. I think those nerves settled within the first couple of minutes'."
During the final six matches of the season, Bird is determined to keep improving and do her best to lead the Tactix to some upset wins.
This is her first season in the high performance environment, which had been a major adjustment.
She was eager to remain in Christchurch after graduating and play for the Tactix next year.
"I've really enjoyed it so far and don't have any other places I want to go. If the opportunity comes up [to play for the Tactix next season], I'll definitely take it."
Bird slotted 30/36 against the talented Pulse defensive duo of Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka, which provided a stern challenge.
It doesn't get any easier with experienced Silver Ferns defender Anna Harrison set to mark her when the Tactix meet the Mystics in Nelson on Sunday.
AT A GLANCE:
Tactix v Mystics
Sunday 2pm, Trafalgar Centre, Nelson.
Tallest players in ANZ Premiership:
1.98m: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (Steel)
1.94m: Ellie Bird (Tactix)
1.93m: Jennifer O'Connell (Steel)
1.92m: Kelly Jury (Magic)
1.90m: Leana de Bruin (Stars)