Netball: Ferns captain says surgery has rewound body clock

By Dana Johannsen

Casey Williams 
Photo / NZPA
Casey Williams Photo / NZPA

It is appropriate that Silver Ferns captain Casey Williams is feeling nerves similar to those of a rookie approaching next week's national camp in Auckland.

Williams will train with the Ferns for the first time in six months after undergoing ankle surgery last September, repairing damage caused by years of playing the game at top speed.

Williams said she feels like surgery has re-wound the clock on her body.

"My body actually feels the age it should now," said Williams (26).

Having taken the first few tentative steps in her on-court comeback in pre-season training with the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic last week, the star defender knows she has a long way to go before she is back to her ball-snaffling best.

The idea of going into the Ferns camp underdone is discomforting for Williams.

"I'm quite nervous about [the camp]. I feel, not embarrassed, but just kind of self-conscious about the fact that I've got a long way to go.

"Usually you go into the camp wanting to impress, but this time I'm going into it thinking I just want to get through the camp and make sure I'm better coming out the other side."

The frustration of starting from scratch again isn't the only annoyance Williams has endured during her lengthy break.

The inspirational skipper was forced to sit out the Ferns' tests against England and Australia late last year. She has never been one to take to sitting on the sidelines, but watching the Ferns capitulate to Australia in October's Constellation Cup decider made the experience even more wretched.

But as her fitness has returned, so too has Williams' perspective.

"I guess there was no way of avoiding it. As much as it was depressing and frustrating, it needed to be done.

"Right now I haven't even started playing but I already feel better for it," said Williams.

The break came at the right time for her on several levels. In her own words, her body was "pretty smashed" after last year's world championships in Singapore.

As well as needing surgery on her ankle, the star defender was also battling calf and knee injuries.

She was just as exhausted mentally following a painful one-goal overtime loss to Australia.

"I feel extremely refreshed both physically and mentally.

"I guess it just goes to show the impact the game of netball can have on your body, and what having a break after 10 years of netball can do for you."

But while she feels she is physically in the best shape she has been in years, Williams believes it will take some time for that to translate on to the court.

Last week she had her first proper on-court hit-outs since her surgery, as the Magic kicked off their pre-season training.

Williams said she felt extremely rusty, with her timing and court awareness still returning. "I guess the hardest thing for me is managing my own expectations.

"I want to be better right now, but that's not going to happen so I've just had to accept I've got to take small steps.

"In some things I'm better than I was before, but in netball terms I'm back to square one."

The full Silver Ferns squad, along with a group of national accelerant players, will take part in next week's camp.

New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu also has a second camp planned for the first week of February.

- NZ Herald

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