The 17-year-old has played age group representative netball since Year 5 in both local and regional teams and is currently involved in the Waikato Bay of Plenty and New Zealand secondary school’s training squads.
She started playing netball as a 5-year-old at Rotokawa Primary. When she got to Year 5, the school didn’t have a netball team. But such was her love for the game, that even at her young age she had no fear in playing for another school, Glenholme Primary. Her love of the sport also influenced her decision to attend Rotorua Intermediate, which was out her school zone, but had a strong netball reputation. She played in the team who took out the AIMS tournament during her first year at the school and continued her representative netball under the Rotorua association.
Kataraina is currently attending St Peter’s School in Cambridge, where her skill on court awarded her a netball scholarship as a year 12 student. Her leadership didn’t go unrecognised, and she was named captain for the premier netball team for the 2019 season. She says being able to move to St Peter’s, which is in a bigger zone and region, has exposed her to more netball opportunities, but she tries to get back to Rotorua as often as she can. Indeed, when she finishes school, she hopes to study health science or sports management at the University of Waikato because it’s closer to home.
“I’ve still got to nail it down, but I want to stay in the sporting area because it’ll be beneficial if I continue playing. Being in the Silver Ferns has always been a long-term goal of mine. It’s quite hard to do it so young because of the number of people who play netball, but my next step is to play in the ANZ premiership. That’ll either be for the Magic or whoever, depending on where I go to uni. From there, you’re pretty much in the green books to be able to trial for the Silver Ferns. So, it takes a while but there’s a process.”
Kataraina has created two Whānau Ora plans over the past few years and was able to access the Whānau Direct grant which was used to further nurture her netball aspirations.
“I’m a midcourt player – center and wing attack – but at the time I was a shooter. I was able to get a hoop which helped me practice and train leading up to the AIMS Games. I was also able to get shoes and help with my fees to attend nationals. Nationals is where you get a look-in from the selectors, so it was a steppingstone leading up to where I am now.
“Being able to have that support from Whānau Ora to attend different things where I was being noticed has really helped. It would’ve been a lot harder on my parents otherwise because it hasn’t been cheap. There’s also a lot of commitment besides paying fees, such as attending trainings and all of that.”
That commitment has certainly paid off for her by being selected as a New Zealand Māori Secondary Schools trialist in 2018 and New Zealand Secondary Schools training squad 2019.
“I guess that’s the highest level you can expect for someone my age. They select 50 secondary school players who come together at the beginning of the year for a one-week camp, which involves fitness testing, drill skills, and physio recovery. From there, they select the training squad who trains, before selecting a squad to play England. It feels pretty cool to be named in the top 20 players in the country and to be part of it.
“It was also a huge privilege to be mentored by netball legend, Sandra Edge, who coached me throughout the camp, which also included other greats such as Irene van Dyk and Jodie Brown.”
A recent injury however has taken Kataraina off-the-ball for the past six weeks, and required a brief stint on crutches, so she’s busting at the seams to get back on the court.
“I got my injury during the last school holidays but kept playing and training over the second term. I had shin splints which got worse and it got to the point where I was struggling to walk. They thought it was a stress fracture, so I had to withdraw from the Waikato representative team for the U19 nationals. Training on Sunday will be my first training back and I’m excited.”
Katarina’s immediate goal is to return to the court before Upper North Island Secondary Schools (UNISS) netball tournament in Auckland in September. She’s hoping her school team will finish in the Top 6, which will automatically qualify them for nationals in Nelson the following month.
She is also looking forward to attending the 2019 Netball Waikato/BOP Awards and sitting alongside some of the biggest names in the sport. Kataraina has been nominated as a finalist in the Talent Pathway Most Improved Player category.