Michael Burgess

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

Netball: Valuable in her own right

Jamie-Lee Price has found having a Warriors legend as a father can be difficult at times. Photo / Neville Marriner
Jamie-Lee Price has found having a Warriors legend as a father can be difficult at times. Photo / Neville Marriner

She has already represented New Zealand in three sports and could become the youngest player in the history of netball's ANZ Championship but Jamie-Lee Price is still more known for the deeds of famous father Steve.

Jamie-Lee, who doesn't turn 17 until January and has one more year of school to complete, was signed by the Magic this month after impressing at a trial.

Usually a goal or wing defence, she was part of the New Zealand secondary schools team that beat their Australian counterparts this year and has represented Auckland at age group level.

Like most teenagers, Jamie-Lee just wants to be herself. There is a burning desire to be an individual and find her own feet, not easy when your dad is a league legend around town, rated as one of the best Warriors to grace the club.

"Sometimes it's good," says Jamie-Lee, "but other times it gets a bit annoying. People are always saying, 'Oh ... you're Steve Price's daughter' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I am but I am someone else as well'."

"Tell the truth," interjects Steve, "you hate it."

Steve goes on to describe a situation in late 2010, when a newspaper story put the spotlight on her ahead of the NZ Secondary Schools trials.

"After that article, I felt pressure that I had to make the team," says Jamie-Lee. "It was my first trial for NZ Secondary Schools and I didn't want any extra attention and to be more special than anybody else. I didn't make it and I was gutted."

"I've told her if you get chosen in any teams, it's not because of me and anything that has been done before," says Steve. "And if it is because of that, it's not going to last very long. The reason why she has got this [selection for the Magic] is because of what she does."

The attention will only increase, especially if she continues to progress, but the youngster seems well equipped to deal with it. She is fiercely determined and won't bow to pressure, perhaps best illustrated by an episode when she was a ball girl years ago at Mt Smart. After the ball had gone out of play, her father (then Warriors captain) was yelling at the 12-year-old to throw him the ball, as he wanted to take a quick tap. She refused.

"We had to place the ball on the sideline, so that's what I did," says Jamie-Lee. "We weren't allowed to give it to the players. Dad was annoyed but I followed the rules and got an extra pie that night."

IN HER first year at Mt Albert Grammar School, she enrolled in the netball academy and was soon asked to train with the premier team - that was when she first thought she might have a future in the sport.

A day after the national schools tournament in October, her mother Jo received a phone call from a Magic representative, asking if Jamie-Lee could come to an open trial in Tauranga - that afternoon.

That meant a frantic rush from hair salon to home and a quick trip down State Highway 2. They took a wrong turn but made it just in time for Jamie-Lee to run straight on to the court.

"It was probably better," says Jamie-Lee, who has also represented New Zealand in tag and touch rugby, "as I didn't have time to get too nervous and think about it too much."

Later that evening, the Price household received a phone call from the franchise, confirming that they wanted to sign the youngster. It's a big step for her but also a tentative one, on to the bottom rung of the ladder. Squads have been expanded to 14 (from 12) for the 2013 season and Price is taking one of those two new spots, geared mainly towards development.

"I wasn't expecting to make the team when I went to the trial," reflects Jamie-Lee. "It's like a dream come true because it was what I wanted to do when I am older. I'll be nervous when it starts and excited at the same time. I know this is just a small step and I need to work harder to get where I want to get. I'm not going to be big-headed about it."

Next year, Jamie-Lee will train with the team on Wednesdays and Thursdays, spending up to two days a week out of the classroom.

"I know I'll have to work really hard at school and might have to do extra," says Jamie-Lee - "Not might ... you will," adds Steve immediately - "Oh yeah, I will."

In some ways, the Price household seems like a little slice of Australiana in the middle of Auckland. Steve knocks around in board shorts and nicknames abound; Jamie-Lee is 'Jimbo' or 'J-Lo', while the pet bulldog, a leaving gift from the Canterbury club which spends much of the time pursuing the Herald on Sunday photographer, is called 'Dozer'. Jamie, who has lived here since she was 8 years old, has neither an Aussie twang nor the Kiwi flatness to her voice but has had her loyalty questioned for years.

At the 2007 world championships, a TV commentator identified Steve in the crowd and mentioned his daughter, who was a ball girl at the tournament, as someone who "wants to play for the [Silver] Ferns".

On hearing that, then Diamonds skipper Liz Ellis asked the 12-year-old if this Ferns talk was "true or not". Jamie-Lee said no.

"You crumbled in front of the Australian captain," teases Steve. "What would you do?" responds Jamie-Lee.

"I'm more Aussie because that is where my family is from," explains Jamie-Lee, "but I live here. But I'm still young and have a long way to go so I'm not even thinking about it."

"She might not even get to make that choice [between New Zealand and Australia], says Steve. "She might not be good enough. But if she has to make a decision one day, whatever dress she decides to wear, she has to be proud to wear it.

"I'm Australian born and bred, she is born in Australia and lived half her life here. We might stay here, we might go back but she might stay here. It's a tough one and I never wanted to put my kids in that scenario but whoever she plays for, I'll still be supporting her."

- Herald on Sunday

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