Huge welcome for netball's golden girls

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Maria Tutaia and her niece Adriana at Auckland Airport. Photo / Robert Trathen
Maria Tutaia and her niece Adriana at Auckland Airport. Photo / Robert Trathen

Golden girl Maria Tutaia arrived home yesterday looking forward to a great feast with her family.

Hundreds of supporters gathered at Auckland Airport to welcome 60 New Zealand Commonwealth Games athletes, including the gold medal-winning netballers.

The 23-year-old Tutaia was the hero for the Silver Ferns in Delhi, shooting the winning shot after two rounds of extra time failed to break the deadlock against Australia.

But she said it was a relief to have the Games behind her.

"It's so overwhelming, I'm exhausted. To go into a sudden death round with Australia and win, it's what I dreamed about as a kid," Tutaia told the Herald on Sunday.

"I'm looking forward to spending time with my family, I've abandoned them for so long," she said.

Tutaia's parents, uncles and aunties, nieces, nephews and cousins all turned up to congratulate the shooter.

Her sister, Viona Tutaia, said the family had been too nervous to watch Thursday's final together.

"It was heart attack material, I couldn't sit down and I was covering my eyes every time she got the ball," she said.

Team captain Casey Williams was also celebrating with family last night in Matamata.

Williams said she was exhausted after days of excitement following the 66-64 win: "The game was an emotional rollercoaster, but it's always satisfying to beat the Aussies. It feels good, really good, to be coming home with the gold."

Champion shot put thrower Valerie Adams, who also won gold at the Games, said it was humbling to be welcomed home by such "ecstatic" fans.

"We all underestimated it, it's a pretty amazing turnout," she said. "Everybody crashed out on the plane. We were out until 2.45 in the morning partying. So it's a shock to walk through the gates to this."

- Herald on Sunday

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