Namana goes to great heights to reach ANZ dreams

FOUR franchises in five years. The first people you think of might be Sulu Fitzpatrick, Chelsea Pitman or Kadie-Ann Dehaney.

Well, Grace Namana knew her goal and she was willing to reach great heights in order to achieve her dreams. Born and raised in Rotorua, Namana moved to St Paul’s College in Hamilton in what was the beginning of her netball career, getting accepted into high performance programs.

In her last year of high school, Namana made it into the NZ Secondary Schools team as a reserve, but the night before the tournament started, she received a call from head coach Marianne Delaney-Hoshek — the now coach of the Mainland Tactix — and ended up seeing some court time there.

From then on, Namana began playing in the Beko League for the Tactix whilst completing her studies in a Bachelor of Law at the University of Canterbury. She then moved to Dunedin to pursue her life as a lawyer, but the netball never stopped as Namana continued playing in the Beko league for the Southern Blast in 2020.

(Image: Adrain Watkins)

Unfortunately for the world, the COVID pandemic began, therefore cancelling events and sport across New Zealand.

Eventually the ANZ Premiership got the ball rolling after delaying the start date of their season and Namana was named as a temporary replacement player for a few games with the Northern Mystics and managed to get her national league debut.

After catching the eye of some coaches, Namana was approached by the Southern Steel for a training partner position in 2021 and was with them in the game day squad for majority of the season due to a concussion to George Fisher.

“Before COVID stopped, the ANZ teams had a month prior to the competition’s starting, and I got asked to be a training partner for the month leading into it, which was super exciting,” Namana tells Rookie Me Central. “It was definitely a goal of mine just to be in training and be in an environment like that.”

A lot of travel was taking place over the next three years as Namana moved to Wellington for work and began a training partner position with the Central Pulse. She went on to win a premiership with Central Manawa in the National Netball League.

(Image: Grace Namana/Instagram)

“Because COVID was still alive and around, people in New Zealand stress the role that the Beko girls could be pulled into ANZ regardless of what team you play for,” she says.

Namana was called into the game day squad for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on multiple occasions before playing five games for the Mystics. Now having been a part of four ANZ Premiership franchises, Namana was hoping for a contract somewhere, but she was left with no pen and paper.

Namana knew in order to grow her game, she needed to add goal attack to her repertoire. So, she packed her bags and headed to England. 

“I knew that I had to do something different with my game because I was a goal shooter and in this day and age, I’m quite a short goal shooter, so I had to learn how to play goal attack,” Namana says.

“My goal was to have an ANZ contract, and I needed to think about how I could get myself in a position where I could have a contract.”

In order to build her versatility and stamina, she reached out to former Hamilton teammate and now Severn Stars head coach Jo Trip.

(Image: Grace Namana/Instagram)

“When Jo was announced as the Stars coach, I was at the stage where I had no ANZ contract so I touched base with Jo and I asked if she needed a shooter, and she said she needed a goal attack,” Namana says.

“I sent her some clips of me playing in the Beko League and as well as me playing for Mystics at goal shooter.

“We had a discussion on Sunday about what I wanted to achieve, and she signed me on the Monday.”

Namana was rewarded for her efforts, earning the starting goal attack position for the Stars and quickly became an important cog in the English attack line. She enjoyed her time in England so much in fact that the 28-year-old was contemplating staying overseas.

“When I was over there, I actually came close to staying,” Namana says. “I loved the style of play. I loved playing netball there. My team was awesome.”

But the dream was still there of being a fully contracted athlete in the ANZ Premiership. That all happened in 2024 where Namana was signed as a shooter with the Southern Steel.

(Image: Joe Allison/Getty Images)

To Invercargill she went, but Namana still plies her trade as a lawyer in Wellington for Māori Crown Relations. 

“I’m very, very lucky. I have such a good boss and team, and they’re allowing me to work when I can as well as play,” Namana says.

“I’m very fortunate that I can do both and that I have an understanding that this is something really important to me.

“When I first met my boss, I told him I wanted to be a professional netballer, and asked if the opportunity came, I would take it, and he was accepting of that.”

Both lifestyles have had its challenges this year taking on a bigger role with netball while working 30 hours a week as a lawyer. Namana has managed to fit her clients needs around training, even though it can be very deadline forced.

“It definitely comes with some challenges and it can be a tad stressful but it’s a privilege to be in this position where I can do both the jobs that I love,” she says.

(Image: Graeme Laughton-Mutu)

The shooter was named Player of the Match in the Steel’s nine-goal loss to the Mystics in their Round 2 hitout. Not only that, but she was a part of history.

The Steel finally broke their 21 game losing streak — 713 days — over the Northern Stars by two goals in their extra time thriller in Round 4. As of Round 9, Namana has shot 237 goals at 84 per cent accuracy, but she still wants to push her game further and reach the potential she knows she’s capable of.

“I would love for my netball to go further, though I just want to be playing solid, consistent netball and just learning what I can and growing,” Namana says.

“I want to make sure that every time I’m getting on court, I’m getting better in some way.”

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