Less than two months after starring in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's trans-Tasman league title win, Khao Watts is back in total obscurity in her home turf of South Australia, working as a checkout chick at her local supermarket.
The 23-year-old was a great fit as the Magic's import player this year, performing consistently well at wing attack in her first taste of play at that level.
But after the brilliant finish to the season, Watts has a long wait before she can think about getting back on court.
She is unable to play in the Australian Netball League because of a rule that prohibits players who have taken part in at least 15 quarters of trans-Tasman league matches that season.
So, for now, it is back to the real world.
Watts said she was lucky to get work so quickly after returning home, starting the week after she got back.
"It's just something a bit consistent, nice to get back into a routine after having a couple of weeks of just relaxing," she said of the job in which she does "a bit of everything" around the store and where no shoppers recognise her.
Mixed with her work, Watts is training almost every day, building her strength and conditioning as she wants to be in the best physical shape she can be. "Fulltime work and training is hard, and some of the girls in our team did that throughout the entire season," Watts said.
"I literally do not know how they did it."
She has also been fortunate enough to have a former coach of hers take her for court sessions.
"At the end of the season, Noels [Magic coach Noeline Taurua] recognised areas that I need to improve on and I've been working hard to build them so, hopefully, if all goes well, next year they'll just become a part of my game and I can start building on other strengths."
Watts was adamant, even before she arrived in Hamilton, that she was keen to play more than one season at the Magic.
And after the team's outstanding season, she is only too eager to return.
"I would love to. They're a fantastic family and it would be great.
"I'm missing Hamilton and New Zealand, so it would be lovely to come back."
The New Zealand Players' Association has recently finalised the collective agreement which means the franchises can start negotiating with players and Watts reckons she will hear from the Magic in the next couple of weeks.
None of the Australian franchises has approached her.
Watts, who lived with Magic captain Laura Langman during her stay, said there were tough times but the camaraderie of the team was brilliant and she hoped the majority of them could stay together for a tilt at back-to-back titles.
"Of course it was hard," she said of the move. "Especially in the netball environment, you can get a bit stressed sometimes, and you've got your comfort zone with your family and my partner, he wasn't over, I didn't get to see him much during the year.
"So it definitely took its toll sometimes but you've got such a great bunch of girls in the group that we have and I couldn't have asked to come into a more supporting environment."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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