Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: Child's pay for Williams

Casey Williams will have surgery later this month. File photo / Getty Images
Casey Williams will have surgery later this month. File photo / Getty Images

From the court to the creche - businesses in the Waikato who engage Student Job Search personnel may be surprised to see a famous netball face among the candidates over the next five months.

As Casey Williams faces up to an extended injury break from the game, the Silver Ferns captain has been combing the site, looking for options.

"I've been on Student Job Search," says Williams. "I'm open to doing something - maybe part-time work looking after kids, working at a gym, teaching kids to swim or even helping out at a hospital."

Williams says she would love to be involved with kids, though she will also be focused on rehabilitation. She will have ankle surgery later this month and will be on crutches for a week afterwards.

She is looking forward to the enforced time off the court: "Even before this surgery came up, I was considering a break - not retiring, just time away from the game. Mainly for the body but also mentally. This is good for me."

The 26-year-old Williams has been with the Magic since 2003 and the Ferns since 2004. Temepara George admitted her time out after Delhi (when she had surgery) was the "best thing for her", leading to a marquee season with the Mystics and a strong Singapore campaign. It may become common for players to take leave from the sport, although it is doubtful we will see full rugby-style sabbaticals.

"I can't see it happening," says former Ferns coach Yvonne Willering. "I simply don't think we have the depth to have players opting out and it wouldn't sit well with the public and sponsors."

Laura Langman disagrees: "It's definitely an option. It seems non-stop sometimes. But if you went away, there would be no guarantee of getting your spot back."

That is not an issue for Williams but her injuries are becoming one. She has been managing her knees since the age of 17, as well as the more recent problems with her ankles and calf. There have been periods, especially with the Ferns, when she would have full days off training, although pre-Singapore she was notably healthy.

"Before the world championships, I was taking part in everything. It was a change from being called the 'precious one' by the girls and to be fully involved after being managed for so long."

She talks of constant pains and niggles as she wakes up each day but has no intention of changing her all-action, aggressive style. For someone so tall (1.88m), Williams is incredibly proficient in the air, having one of the best vertical jumps on the team.

"When I first saw her, I thought - wow - finally a tall girl that can jump," recalls Australian Mo'onia Gerrard. "Often the 'tallies' don't spring as well, probably because they don't need to."

Williams concedes she will have to try to make small changes to the way she jumps to take pressure off her knees, as well as being careful with her weights programme.

"There will be little changes off the court so it becomes more natural out there but it is the only way I know. I have to be careful - I want to keep playing as long as I can but also in the future I want to be able to play with my kids."

Meanwhile, Williams has spoken for the first time about the pain she endured in the world championships final - and the dilemma she faced in deciding to stay on the court while obviously injured.

"Sometimes you can push through and there were moments in the game where I did that - but at other times, it was just agonising," admits Williams. "I was thinking 'am I being selfish? I need to go off and let someone who is 100 per cent play'. But then I thought 'bugger this - I am going to give 100 per cent no matter what and if the coaches think someone else can do a better job, they will make the decision; it's not up to me'."

It will remain one of the great what-ifs of New Zealand sport. Williams, while still able to defend, was virtually on one leg on attack but Ruth Aitken and Wai Taumanu elected not to replace their inspirational leader. With less than a minute on the clock and in possession, the Ferns seemed home but Australia isolated a hobbling Williams, Natalie Medhurst stole a crucial intercept and the rest is history.

"I know there are mixed feelings from people about whether I should have stayed on or gone off," admits Williams. "Reading that sort of stuff when I got home made me realise that maybe I should have gone off."

Williams, who received the New Zealand Order of Merit last Thursday, heads into hospital on August 24 having watched the procedure on YouTube.

"It sounds weird, but I like to know what they are going to do."

- Herald on Sunday

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