Netball: Courting success

By Dana Johannsen

Netball and javelin may seem a curious mix for a young sportswoman, but it appears to be working for Hamilton-based Keshia Grant.

The winner of the senior javelin title at last season's national championship, the multi-talented youngster has more recently been named in the Magic for the upcoming ANZ Championship season.

With the Magic boasting five Silver Ferns and a wealth of talent available, it has proven a difficult squad to break in to.

Though the young midcourter has represented Waikato at NPC level, this will be the first outing in a franchised netball competition.

But Grant's big break in netball comes at a time when she is also excelling in athletics. The Waikato University student has impressed in competition this summer and is easily the best javelin thrower in the country.

Throw intense pre-season netball training in to the mix and it makes for a very busy time.

"I'm in competition with javelin and we're sort of doing pre-season stuff with netball so it's full-on with both of them at the moment," said Grant, who recently turned 21.

She said it was a juggling act she didn't really expect when she was first invited to trial for the Magic.

"I wasn't actually expecting to make the team so at first I was a bit shocked. When I first trialled I didn't actually think I'd make it so I wasn't really concerned about any clashes."

But, with the athletics season scheduled to end a week before the ANZ Championship starts, Grant is confident she can balance the two programmes.

Her involvement with athletics began as a youngster. She was encouraged by her father from an early age.

After at first excelling in long and triple jump, a serious knee injury a few years ago forced her to focus more on the throwing disciplines.

She quickly began to make her mark in the javelin - regarded the most technically challenging of all throwing disciplines.

Though Grant has been competing seriously in javelin for three years, she is comfortably ahead of the rest and continuing to improve with every outing.

At last weekend's Porritt Classic in Hamilton, she managed only two legal throws but both were personal bests and good enough to break the meet record.

"It's been good this year with athletics, I've had a PB just about every competition I've been in so I definitely haven't peaked yet."

Grant's eventual goal is to compete at an Olympics or Commonwealth Games and she said she would need to continue to improve in the same way to do it.

"My ultimate goal is to go to the Olympics and Commonwealth Games," she said. "Ever since I was younger I've always wanted to go to the Olympics. I used to watch track and field and it was just awesome seeing all the superstars in action."

The qualifying distance for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is 52m - Grant's current personal best is 48.81m but she hopes to be throwing at least 55m plus by that stage.

For now her immediate focus is on making an impact in the new transtasman netball league. Having never played National Bank Cup, this new competition is sure to be a steep learning curve, but coach Noeline Taurua is confident she has the goods.

Though Grant is only 1.64m tall - small by even midcourter standards - Taurua said the young wing-attack had impressive speed and was a definite starting option.

"She is obviously tiny but she's got amazing speed," the former Silver Fern said. "She nips around the court and gets the ball away so fast that no one can touch her."

It may seem like she's been thrown in the deep end, but Taurua believes Grant's background in athletics will serve her well in elite netball.

"She's already a high achiever in athletics so she knows what pressure is about. She has that awareness of self-responsibility that comes with performing at a high level."

With five Silver Ferns and veteran midcourter and former Fern Amigene Metcalfe in the Magic line-up, Grant is certainly in the right environment to continue to develop her game and push for higher honours.

The management student admits there will probably come a time when she has to choose between her athletics endeavours and netball. But she says she is not ready to give either of them up just yet.


DoB: 11/01/87

From: Taranaki

Lives: Hamilton

Height: 1.64m

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