Netball: 'Home' team wins out in race for George

By Robert Lowe

Livewire centre Temepara George's desire to play for a "home" team is the reason she has opted for the Northern Mystics in the new Transtasman netball competition.

The Queensland-based former Silver Fern today confirmed her intent to play for the Auckland franchise in the ANZ championship.

George, who moved to Townsville this year to be with her partner, North Queensland and former Kiwi rugby league player Sione Faumuina, was also courted by the Queensland Firebirds.

She said the Brisbane-based Firebirds were an attraction because they were "just down the road", but in the end the New Zealander in her won out.

"New Zealand is my home so I really didn't fancy playing for an Australian side," she told journalists in Auckland.

"I wanted to come back and play here."

George, 32, isn't yet contracted to the Mystics, where she will team up with her coach at the Force, Yvonne Willering.

New Zealand franchises are unable formally to sign players until Netball New Zealand and the Players Association resolve issues over eligibility rules and salary cap.

The championship runs from April to July and George said there would be "a lot of flexibility" in her movements between Auckland and Townsville.

"I was actually going to be coming home in April for about a month, so that coincides with the competition," she said.

"I'll be based here, but commuting back to Townsville, which I call my other home."

A veteran of 59 tests, George made herself unavailable for New Zealand's test series against Jamaica and Australia in July, citing personal reasons.

She agreed to go on stand-by ahead of the Silver Ferns' defence of their world title last month because of injury to Laura Langman, but was not needed when Langman was passed fit.

Willering was delighted at the prospect of working with George again.

"I've been in contact with her throughout and we came to a situation where there was give and take, and it provided an opportunity for her to play for us," she said.

"She's been with me for a long time and it's just wonderful to have her on board, not just for herself, but also for what she brings to the rest of the team as well."

Willering declined to comment on other players' movements, including speculation surrounding shooters Maria Tutaia and Jade Topia.

Silver Fern Tutaia, a former Diamond, is tipped to move south to join Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic.

Meanwhile, the Mystics are said to have offset her loss with the potential acquisition of youngster Jade Topia from the Canterbury Flames.

"The rumours are that players are going all over the place," Willering said.

"As a coach, I'm pretty reluctant to talk about players until we get to the stage where we are ready to sign.'

She said the situation with George was different.

"She was over in Australia and the Firebirds were also after her, so it was time for her to make a decision rather than hold off."

- NZPA

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