From Tokanui courts to se­lec­tion for Ire­landi

The Southland Times - - SPORT - LO­GAN SAVORY

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.

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