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A Return to Wellington – Kristiana Manu’a

For such an impressive player a move out of the Super Netball was just what the doctor ordered. Formerly the vice-Captain of Giants Netball and a roll-on impact player for the side, Kristiana Manu’a has been playing some of her best netball as the starting Goal Defence for the Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in 2022.

But for the Kiwi-born player, moving to New Zealand was a big decision and hasn’t come without some minor challenges.

Settling into life as a Kiwi 

Settling into life in New Zealand now, Kristiana Manu’a admits that the initial move from Australia was emotionally challenging: “I was really sad and it was hard moving away from my family so to come over here and be welcomed by the girls and the coaching staff and management has made it so much easier.”

“Now that I am here – I am thinking more about the long term. It was hard for me to leave the Giants because I am a loyal kind of team player, I don’t like to move franchises that often, so for me to come here was a big step. Now that I am here I am fully committed to this club and this franchise,” Manu’a commented.

Being a Wellington-born player, Manu’a is eligible for the Silver Ferns (despite growing up in Australia) and she admits that it was not in the front of her mind when first arriving on Kiwi shores. But after 4 rounds playing with Silver Fern Defender, Kelly Jury there seems to be a change of tune.

“Now that I am over here and it is an option, it would be a great opportunity but for me, it is just making sure I am doing my own job and making the most of my opportunities to get on the court.”

It’s not the first time Manu’a has moved across the ditch, in 2016 she debuted for the Waikato/ Bay of Plenty Magic alongside defensive partner Kelly Jury before she became a foundation player for Giants Netball. When asked about playing alongside Jury again Manu’a described it as surreal.

“We started our careers together when we both played for the Magic and as young kids and now playing together with her (Kelly) being the co-captain of the team – it is surreal and I feel like we have come full circle” 

“She is definitely one of those players who you can definitely slot in with so easily and I feel like we just click. I don’t think we have fully played that well and we haven’t hit that target of connection that we want to, but it is building. She is such a great player, I love playing with her and I am looking forward to that connection that we will eventually have at the end of the season.” 

Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

The Big Decision

Despite the shock to the netball community, the move to New Zealand was not an out of the blue decision for Manu’a saying “It was quite early on in the season when I made my decision to move to New Zealand, I had a big preseason last year knowing that I would be sitting behind other defenders and in the first couple of games I didn’t quite get the opportunities that I wanted. From then on I thought that I needed a change, I needed to play, I needed to get on the court. I am one of those players that thinks I deserve more than what I actually get sometimes.” 

Her move to New Zealand was motivated by more court time and being able to provide herself with more opportunities.

“I was hoping to come over here and play some good netball and get on the court which is happening so far and I am really enjoying it. I just wanted to play netball, I wanted to get on the court, I wanted to try and become the best player that I could be because I don’t think I had reached that full potential yet,” Manu’a commented.

But when it came finding a club to play for in New Zealand, it was almost too late for the defender, despite making this decision early on in the Super Netball season.

“I put feelers out to all the teams actually but because our season in Australia was played on far beyond when the New Zealand one had ended, I think I was a bit too late for some of the clubs.

“I had a really good chat with Yvette McCausland-Durie, Waimarama Taumaunu, and the CEO of the Pulse (Fran Scholey) and they reassured me that they were looking for a defender and that opportunity and court time were available. For me that was exactly what I wanted to hear, I knew the history of the club and the players that have come out of this franchise so it was definitely the right pick for me when I did decide to come over here,” Manu’a said.

ANZ vs SSN

Although the ANZ Premiership and Suncorp Super Netball play by different rules, Manu’a commented that there she doesn’t believe the two competitions couldn’t be separated.

“I thought it was going to be really different, there was all this talk about how different the two styles are and how different the intensity is, but to be honest I don’t think it’s too much different besides the structural way each country plays.” 

There has been one thing that has stood out as a key difference for Manu’a which has helped her to develop as a player: “I think that the smarts of the game are different, here in New Zealand there have been different ways of thinking about how to play and how to set up plays and I think that’s been a really big asset for me and my game,” she said.

In 2022, Manu’a is having one of the best seasons yet currently sitting with 13 deflections, 5 intercepts and 7 gains after 4 matches. Catch every game of the ANZ Premiership on Sky Sports or at thenetballpass.com.

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