From Tokanui courts to selection for Irelandi
Often the best sporting stories are positioned where the spotlight doesn’t shine the brightest.
Brittany North provides us with one of those stories.
Her netball journey started as a five-year-old when she headed to the Tokanui courts in Southland with her mum and three older sisters.
Like many Kiwi girls, she played netball through primary school and then onto high school. In her case at Southland Girls’ High School.
Netball took somewhat of a back seat for North in her teen years as basketball took over.
At Otago University she did play a little bit of netball socially and on her return home to Invercargill played for the St Mary’s All Stars at club level.
Initially, that is where a full stop would be placed on the heights of her netball story. A story like so many others in New Zealand that would end in the club ranks.
North moved to Ireland with her Irish partner Danny Dowling and the little Irish place where she now resides, Glenmalure, County Wicklow, didn’t even know what netball was before the Southlander arrived in town. The opportunities were limited. But just over two years ago she decided to join the Leinster Netball Club to have another go.
Ireland has just one netball competition so it has meant travelling twice a week to Dublin to get her netball fix, over an hour drive from where she is based.
But what has unfolded from it all is an unexpected and surreal surprise.
North was invited to train alongside the Irish national team to, as she says, make up the training numbers.
She returned to New Zealand for a few months over summer missing a season in Ireland and stalling the netball momentum a little.
But on her return she rejoined the national team as a training partner before an unexpected selection.
North was included in the Ireland squad of 12 to head to Singapore later this month to take part in the Mission Foods Nations Cup.
‘‘I was completely shocked and so excited for the opportunity. It is pretty amazing to play my sport internationally,’’ she said.
‘‘New Zealand will always be my home but Ireland is now my second home, so I will be very proud to wear the green dress.
‘‘I just need to brush up on the national anthem without breaking into God of Nations by accident.’’
Ireland is very much a developing nation in terms of netball and are currently ranked 22nd in the world.
They will play five games in Singapore against Singapore, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Swaziland, and Malaysia - countries with a similar ranking to Ireland.
The national selection does, however, come with a catch.
Irish netball is amateur, right down to the fact the players have to fund their own trips to these international events.
It has meant North has gone into fundraising mode to get to pull on the Ireland dress in Singapore, something she is more than willing to do.
‘‘It is a huge amount of money but as my dad said, it is a huge honour and an amazing experience.’’
The Mission Foods Nations Cup runsfrom December 3-9.