Focused young netballer Temalisi Fakahokotau is lapping up her time with the Northern Mystics
Temalisi Fakahokotau always knew her first forays into top-level trans-Tasman netball would be “scary”. But there was no hint of trepidation when the 19-year-old defender stepped onto the court at a critical time during the Northern Mystics’ game against the Adelaide Thunderbirds on March 24. And no sign of nerves, given she was up against the ANZ Championship title-holders who were enjoying a 16-matching winning streak – and she was brought on during make-or-break extra time.
The young defender made two crucial plays while marking shooter Carla Borrego, helping the Mystics edge past the reigning champions and take the match 71-68. The upset win, at the team’s home stadium, The Trusts Arena in Henderson, was their first of the season.
A week before, she had faced another daunting task – marking one of netball’s all-time great shooters, Silver Fern legend Irene van Dyk.
“First I was nervous, but when I went on court I had to focus on what I had to do,” says Temalisi, who started at goal keep in the team’s clash against the Pulse – and promptly took an intercept.
“It was awesome playing against Irene van Dyk. I remember playing against her the first time [during last year’s pre-season] and it was really hard, but I had a bit more confidence this time.”
And it showed. The former New Zealand schoolgirl and current under-21 development squad member took two more intercepts and managed two deflections in the first half before making way for Jess Tuki in the third quarter.
And while her team didn’t achieve the win they were so desperately hunting, going down 53-47 to the Pulse, Temalisi says that game was a major step forward from the previous two, although there was “still a lot to work on”.
The former Westlake Girls High School student is relishing her time with the Mystics – and playing alongside senior players, including goal defence Julie Corletto, who she’s been partnering in the circle. “She’s an amazing person. She really helps me, really inspires me,” she says of the Australian Diamond. ”It’s so cool having her there, telling me what I’m doing well and what I can improve on.”
After Temalisi’s three stints in the pressure cooker that is the ANZ Champs – she also came on in the game against the Magic – she’s “hungrier than ever” for more top-level netball. And there’s no question of her focus and where her priorities lie. She’s unequivocal: “Parties? That’s not me. They’re not my thing.”
Life consists of the Mystics, her AUT studies towards a teaching qualification and her family – seven brothers, one sister and her mum and dad.
Her family, she says, is her greatest support and her parents are among the Mystics fans at The Trusts Arena willing on the team. “They were pretty stoked I got on court,” she says of her game against the Pulse. “My dad usually has a tear in his eye when he sees me play.”
Now she’s hoping there will be more chances for her parents to see her play and, of course, to celebrate more wins for the Mystics.