Jess Tuki hasn't played a game of netball in New Plymouth for eight years.
Her last game was when she was in her final year of school at Sacred Heart Girls' College and playing for the Western Flyers.
This weekend, the former Sacred Heart Girls' College player and her Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic teammates will play two games at the TSB Stadium as preparation for the ANZ Championship.
The first is against the Central Pulse tomorrow afternoon, with the second against the Australian Institute of Sport on Sunday morning. The Pulse also have two games, their first against the Australian side this evening.
The Pulse lineup includes Amber Bellringer, who also went to Sacred Heart.
Twenty-five-year-old Tuki has ticked off most boxes in netball since heading to university in Dunedin.
She's played for the Silver Ferns, replacing an injured Jodi Brown in the team for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, she played for the Flyers in 2004 and 2005, the Otago Rebels in 2006, had a year off in 2007 and stepped up to the Southern Steel in 2008 before heading north to link up with the Magic.
"It's ages since I played in New Plymouth . . . 2005 . . . my last year at school. That makes me feel so old," said Tuki, who is now working as a business adviser for an accountancy firm in Hamilton.
"I was very excited to see New Plymouth on our preseason calendar. I'm coming down Friday. The team is coming Saturday morning."
Tuki said she was hoping for more court time in 2013.
Last year, a back injury sidelined her in round four of the trans-Tasman competition and she only had limited game time on her return.
"I had a bit of back pain preseason and then fell heavily in the game against the Vixens. I was out for six weeks and by the time I came right the team was so established, I didn't get much game time."
Tuki, who can play either attack or defence, said she wanted to focus on wing attack this season.
"I'm happy to play anywhere, but I really want to try to establish myself at wing attack. Hopefully, I'll stay injury-free . . . so far, so good. I don't want to jinx myself," she said. "These preseason games are important. I have to work hard and push for a place in the starting seven."
Bellringer, who is in her fifth year of study, also played two years for the Flyers while still at school and had her first year with the Pulse in 2008. Not wanted for the next two years, Bellringer earned a recall to the Pulse in 2011 and has been there since.
She's also managed to return home during her first three years at uni to play a few games for Tysons in the Taranaki premier grade competition. "I haven't managed that for the last two years."
Bellringer, who plays both goal shoot and goal attack, said there was a lot of versatility in the Pulse circle this year.
"It's tough to break in and I'll definitely be doing my hardest to do so. I want to keep the older players on their toes," she said. "We've got some amazing players in our team and I hope not only to learn a lot this season but also push for a starting spot."
Bellringer said 2013 would definitely be her last year of study.
After graduating from Massey University with a health science degree, she did a one-year graduate diploma of journalism through the same university. This year, she's moved to Wellington and is doing a graduate diploma of teaching at Victoria.
"That's it, no more studying after this year," she said. "I'll stay in Wellington until the end of the netball season, then come home and study extramurally."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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