Silver Ferns’ captain not immune from contracting ‘meat market’
Silver Ferns’ coach Dame Noeline Taurua once described netball’s player contracting period as a ‘meat market’ and her captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio would have to agree.
The star shooter has signed with the Magic for the 2022 ANZ Premiership after six seasons with the Pulse, in what will probably go down as the most significant off-season signing.
Ekenasio is on maternity leave, and due to give birth to her second child later this year.
She said that was a big factor in her decision.
“We were really unsure how next year was going to look with a new baby. All we knew 100 percent was that – I wanted to be playing netball, and that I needed to be somewhere where I felt the most supported to return to court,” Ekenasio said.
“That’s not just me as an athlete, that’s me as a mum of a new born, as a mum to a four-year-old and for our family as well too so it was looking for where I could be and could go to get that level of support and feel like it was really welcomed.”
Ekenasio said her initial plan was to return to the Pulse.
“I haven’t actually played at any other New Zealand franchise, I’ve only ever been here so a move hadn’t been on our thoughts early on but when I really started to weigh up my values and what I needed we thought we needed to start looking.”
In the end the Magic offered her a contract that worked better for her holistically than what the Pulse could offer.
“It was really about the decision of me as a whole person and everything, that was the main part of it, and where I could go, where I could feel like everything that I bring was valued and I could bring it to the table and I would able to be welcomed like that.”
She said it was a hard decision to leave the franchise she won back to back titles with.
“I have been really grateful to have formed some really special and I think some life long relationships from playing here in Wellington with the fans and sponsors and the community so that’s been really cool.
“I had never actually thought about where or how I might play out the rest of my career so to be honest it hadn’t really come across my mind.”
Many netball fans were disappointed with the way the Pulse announced that Ekenasio wouldn’t be returning the franchise earlier this week.
It was pushed near the bottom of a release announcing that new Silver Ferns’ squad member Tiana Metuarau was returning to the Pulse shooting circle after a year at the Southern Steel.
The Pulse later said they wanted to wait until Ekenasio could announced her next move, before they paid tribute to her.
Ekenasio tries to be diplomatic when asked about the way her departure was handled.
“I guess I have been here for I think six seasons, I’ve almost lost track of it …
“But I think it’s a really timely reminder for anybody as an athlete that being a professional athlete is a job and I think sometimes we forget that there are people behind the athlete as well too and that sometimes this is the nature.
“Like you said before Noels [Noeline Taurua] has referred to this time of the year as the meat market, which is contracting time, and that’s the time when we see it turn into a business so that’s just a timely reminder to not invest every single thing that I am into this time of the year.”
The Pulse have now farewelled Ekenasio on their Facebook page, saying that they are now in a position where it is “appropriate to congratulate her, following today’s announcement.”
“Farewell champion woman, We are saddened by your departure, We hope that your new pathway will be amazing,” the Facebook post said.
“While naturally we are disappointed Ameliaranne opted not to renew her contract, we wish her all the best for the next chapter of her remarkable netball journey, and the birth of her second child. We thank you for the years of service, championship contributions and leadership you gave to us all.”
Massive coup for Magic
Now that Ekenasio is able to talk about playing for the Magic, she is very excited about it.
With her signature confirmed, the Magic who have finished at the bottom of the table for the past two season, will be looking to lock in more signatures in the coming days.
Ekenasio said the club’s proud history was also appealing.
“I will bring everything that I can to the table on and off the court and am just really looking forward to the challenge, but I’m a person who likes to give, and I’m either all in or I’m all out.”
Ekenasio said they would have to be flexible as a family next year.
“We will do a bit of commuting, as we’ll have a brand new born …we’ll have a really big support base in the Mount and in Tauranga and where we’re based up there as well.”
Ekenasio said she had never been more motivated to get back into the game and back playing for the Silver Ferns.
“That comes from wanting just to be the best that I can and having time away gives you a bit of clarity on why you play and what you really value.
“And there’s no greater honour than being able to wear the black dress and I’ve had a few really good years in it with Noels [Noeline Taurua] and what we’ve been able to achieve with our squad.
“I absolutely love what we do at the Ferns and I’ve found my place there so I will absolutely be doing everything I can to get back in there. And obviously Commonwealth Games is a big event that I would love to play and love to enjoy.”
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