For someone just 22, Kayla Cullen has had a full netball life.
She was a school girl star for Auckland Girls Grammar and was signed by the Northern Mystics at 17. Soon after she was making her ANZ Championship debut and the following season she started for the Mystics in a grand final, was named at wing defence in the competition’s All-Star team, and earned a spot in the Silver Ferns. This was before she hit 20.
It hasn’t all been roses though.
Kayla missed last year’s ANZ champs, after her second ACL knee injury. She got called into the Silver Ferns in October, following Casey Kopua’s own knee troubles, but she was still fighting her way back to fitness, both physically and mentally.
“When I first came back, I thought about the knee every single time I caught the ball,” says Kayla. “I thought I would never be able to play the way I used to. But I’ve come a long way since then.”
Kayla has spent plenty of time in the gym in the off-season, working alongside the Mystics’ trainer Sam Pervan, and that effort was rewarded when she was named in a 12-strong Silver Ferns team to travel to Fiji in January.
“The knee feels stronger now and I feel more comfortable as a result,” she says. “When it’s strapped up, I don’t think about it at all. It’s such a relief to go out on court and just play.”
While she’s still a youngster, Kayla won’t be a junior in the Mystics’ defensive unit this season. In fact, she’s the oldest of a trio with Silver Ferns experience that coach Debbie Fuller has to call on.
Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick (22), who didn’t play in last season’s ANZ competition due to having twins, has re-joined the Mystics for 2015, while plenty of eyes will be on Temalisi Fakahokotau (20), who made such an impression with her energy and interceptions last year.
There’s more experience for the Mystics in their shooting circle, where internationals Cathrine Latu (28), Maria Tutaia (27) and Paula Griffin (26), spearhead the line-up. Then Laura Langman (28) brings the learnings of over 100 test matches to the midcourt, where she’s joined by fellow Silver Fern Camilla Lees (25).
Interesting newcomers to the Mystics for 2015 include Katherine Coffin (24), whose aunty Jenny-May was a regular for the Silver Ferns, and English international Serena Guthrie (25).
The Mystics open their ANZ Championship campaign against the Tactix in Christchurch on March 2. The first of their six regular season games at home is against Irene Van Dyk and the Central Pulse at The Trusts Arena on March 23. Other big home matches include the local derby against the Waikato BOP Magic on May 3 and the final round showdown with the Melbourne Vixens, the current ANZ champs, on June 1.
The Mystics have reviewed their membership packages for 2015, with the goal of giving members more. Prices start from $120 for adults, $60 for children and $350 for families (two adults and two children). All the details are at www.northernmystics.co.nz 2015 Northern Mystics Squad Elsa Brown, Katherine Coffin, Kayla Cullen, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Paula Griffin, Serena Guthrie, Laura Langman, Cathrine Latu, Camilla Lees, Nadia Loveday, Sulu Tone- Fitzpatrick, Maria Tutaia.