Afa Rusivakula has made some big sacrifices in order to fulfil her goal of playing in the ANZ Premiership. While former Silver Fern and Fiji international Vilimaina Davu played for the Mystics early on, Afa will become the first official Fijian import on a professional contract to play at this level, when the ANZ Premiership begins on 26 March.
Afa has had to leave her five-year old son David back home while she pursues her netball career - not that David seems too bothered, “when I was saying goodbye at the airport, he was like ok see-you, just bring me some more chocolate. He was only worried about the chocolate” Afa says. She’s hoping David will be able to come over from Fiji to watch one of her games.
Arriving in Auckland four weeks ago, Afa is living with a local family and her ‘host parents’ David and Cindy, have already had some of the team around to visit and partake in a kava session “I think the girls liked the kava, and suggested we have it every Friday” she says “I use it for recovery after my games, and I was surprised to hear some of the All Blacks Sevens team use kava as well”.
Predominantly a goal-shoot, who started playing goal-attack at the 2015 World Cup, Afa believes she can add a lot to the Stars shooting circle and bring a different style the other teams won’t have seen, “I’m strong on the hold, defend my space well and go up strongly for the rebound” she says.
Joining the Stars means Afa is teaming up with coach Julie Hoornweg for a second time, having previously worked together with the Fiji national team. Afa says Hoornweg is very easy to work with “the way she integrates everything on court is very understandable, so to be here and working under her wing again is a real honour”.
Afa has always had two goals for her netball career – play for Fiji and in the ANZ Premiership. A regular in the Pearls since her debut in 2010, goal one is under control, and Afa says to know that goal number two is about to come to fruition is very humbling “when Julie first called to ask me to come over here, I was over the moon. I called my parents straight away, and my mum was really proud”.
But Afa knows getting here is just the beginning. She says “I’ve watched a lot of netball and the level her much higher, so I’m going to have to work very hard”.
The Stars’ season begins against the Steel on 26 March.