Tamara Leoni of Ngāti Kuri is the newest rookie to join Auckland's Northern Mystics netball side this year. She's only 18 years old, however, coach Helene Wilson believes the young shooter has the skills to match the experienced side as they prepare for the new ANZ Premiership season.
It's a dream come true for former NZ Secondary School team’s shooter. Leoni, who will share the court with one of New Zealand's most internationally packed sides says “I've lived on Waiheke Island, Auckland my whole life so I've also been a massive supporter of local teams so have watched the Mystics for a few years and just being asked to play topped it all off.”
Leoni played for both Epsom Girls Grammar and the Auckland Under-19 team. Last year she was a part of the new Northern Zone Elite Performance Programme where coach Helene Wilson saw her potential.
“It didn't matter who was defending her, whether she missed the goal or got the goal in she wanted the ball and wanted to shoot,” says Wilson.
“I think to be a world-class shooter no matter what happens you want to shoot the ball so that's what stood out for me.”
Now Leoni is gearing up to train alongside some of the best shooters in the country.
“I'm pretty excited to get the year underway and start training with some of my idols I guess on the shooting end having Bailey and Maria down there,” says Leonie.
From Waiheke sporting pedigree, her family are no strangers to success on the field.
Her cousin Brandon Smith was last year named to play for the Melbourne Storm.
“Sports has always been a big part of our family for our whole life so especially with our parents supporting us,” says Leonie.
“Brandon's parents are huge supporters of him and my parents and we've kind of grown up on Waiheke with a really supportive community.”
Leoni joins a 10-strong squad including Maria Folau (nee Tuta'ia), Bailey Mes, Phoenix Karaka and Mystics captain Anna Harrison.
"I'm looking forward to getting out and learning new skills from people that have been playing at this level for a really long time,” says Leoni.
The Mystics side came third in last year's inaugural ANZ Premiership. They launch their campaign against the defending champs Southern Steel on May 6.