How about my place? 11am? Come on round, says Casey Williams. And we do.
We find the new captain of the Silver Ferns sat on a kitchen chair in the middle of the lounge in a kempt suburban Hamilton bungalow having her long locks attended to by her flatmate and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic teammate, Jess Tuki.
Both wear shorts, accentuating their long-leggedness. Tyra Banks holds court on the television in front of them. While Jess jokes about being a slave to her newly famous flatmate, the hairstyling is no regular thing. Rather it is a concession to the demands of her new role. The day of our visit was turning into something of a media day. After us, TVNZ was due. Williams mentions something about them making a DVD but wasn't exactly sure what they were doing. All she knew was they were coming, ready or not.
She takes such things with a nonchalance that is refreshing when you consider the minders and rigmarole that's typically involved in interviewing her All Black equivalent. Apart from a request not to do the photographs inside (she doesn't want you to see the colourful 70s carpet!), Williams is as easygoing as you would expect a country girl to be.
Her appointment as captain was a small surprise given her youth (at 24 she is 14 years younger than her predecessor) and her position (she is the first defender since Bernice Mene a decade ago). She said she'd never thought about being captain but her plan is to take it the same way she takes most things in her long stride.
"It's busier but I don't mind at all." Her strategy? "Pretty much be myself."
She's a cow country girl and her head is still attuned to its rhythm. "It's calving season at the moment," she said, "so it's pretty hectic at home."
There are two places that she now calls home. First, and foremost, is the Matamata farm where her sharemilking-parents Murray and Joanne manage 200 cows on 100 acres and raised four kids. "I lived my life in the same house until I moved to here five years ago." "Here" is the house she shifted into and bought last year with her builder boyfriend, Wessel Eshuis.
Tomboy? Absolutely, she said. And "a bit of a daddy's girl". That came up when I asked her the origin of her email address, which includes the names "Flossie" and "May". May is her middle name, Flossie is what her dad calls her. She's mum's girl too, she quickly adds, but she and her dad spent a lot of time together out and about on the farm.
Though she proclaims a developing interest in what she calls "girlie-girlie things", you suspect the tomboy still reigns. For example, the freshly painted house was her work. "Along with dad. Wess? He taped it up so the colours didn't overlap and then lay on the couch. I think he was hungover."
Poor Wessel is not around to defend himself, although she does say that dad is thrilled she chose a builder handy skills for when they visit the farm, where Wess likes nothing better than "burning around on the tractor".
Wessel cops it again when I ask about steps she's taking outside of netball. By this I mean her studies and that she has bought a house young.
She aims to be a phys ed teacher and is halfway through a bachelor's degree in sport and exercise science, though the Silver Ferns' packed schedule means taking this semester off. Her parents impressed upon her that she can't play netball forever and needs to build something to fall back on.
Was it her plan too, to get an early start in the home-ownership stakes?
No, she said. "Wessel was probably the one."
He's the financially astute one, is he?
"He's, um, Dutch!" After the laughter dies down, she adds, "It's something I'd wanted to do. I didn't think I'd do it so early ... to own your own home at 24 is pretty good, I think."
She mentions she and Wessel have been together five years, that she loves his sense of fun, and adds: "He's tall, too, and I think he's attractive".
"He's probably my first serious boyfriend. I didn't have time for that at school and as I say I was a tomboy."
No hanging round the shops or weekly trips to the hairdressers for her.
"You're getting better," said Jess, encouragingly.
"Much better, yep, more girlie-girlie. I think because I didn't do any of that, I'm starting to like it now."
Social life revolved around netball. And she'd often be the sober driver. "A lot of people see that as a sacrifice but it's not. It's a choice."
Hung above the fireplace is a painted sign, a gift from a friend, which reads: "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
"I believe that," says Williams. "You do create who you are, and you create what you leave behind, your legacy."
Growing up on the farm meant a physical life. "We never had a Play Station or a computer or anything like that. I was telling Jess, we used to make guns out of pegs. We'd play pirates and all that sort of thing make huts in the haybarn, make up games."
"Kids that have it [computerised games] now don't want to go outside and play. It's not very good."
Williams has long and sporty genes.
"My dad played rugby for Waikato [lock, the tall guys who jump in the lineout and shove in the scrum] and my mum was a Silver Fern triallist until she got pregnant with my sister, Jan-Marie."
Jan-Marie is due home soon after five years teaching and playing rugby in Japan and England.
Next came Rhys. Casey and Jan-Marie would take on Rhys at backyard rugby. Youngest of the four is Lynaire, 20, who appears to be following in her Silver Fern sister's footsteps. She too is a defender, and her life in Hamilton also revolves around study and netball.
Said Williams: "It is in the blood but they never forced me to do anything I didn't want to do and they still don't. They definitely support and are very proud of me. They do everything to support all of us kids, not just in sport but in life in general."
Netball seems inevitable. "Dad is 6'6". Mum's about 6' and I'm 6'2" and a bit."
But height isn't the only thing that runs in the family. "Dodgy knees", said Williams. She not long ago discovered she was born with a 2cm hole in the patellar tendon of one knee. "The other one just has tendinitis, which probably every netballer has."
Figures. A little Googling reveals that patellar tendinitis is known as "jumper's knee".
It is worth noting that at this point and long may it last Williams is the only family member not to have had a knee operation. "Mum's had one knee operation, dad's had both done, my brother's had both, Jan-Marie has had one, Lynaire's had one. The family knees, they're terrible! I always blame my grandparents."
Consequently, Williams hadn't played a club game in seven years because of the hard outdoor courts they are played on. Until last week, that is. In need of game time before the Silver Ferns programme begins later this month, she played in a club team with Lynaire (a first). "Mum and dad were quite stoked about that." They, and Williams' maternal grandmother, Beryl, hardly miss a game that is within driving distance of Matamata.
Readers, please breathe a sigh of relief Williams reports that her knees weren't sore at all after the outdoor club game.
It's at this point that Jess chimes in. "Who did you play? And did you win?
"Ahh," said Williams. "We played this one [nods in Jess's direction]. Result? We lost by one."
Jess smiles a smile that says her flatmate can talk all she likes about knees.
Asked what was needed to make it in top netball, Williams replied, "commitment". Yawn. More promisingly, she added: "I don't know whether I can say it, but 'the mongrel'. You need to have that X-factor, that little bit of flair about you. Not just physically but mentally. If you don't have that upstairs it's one leg of the chair that you are missing."
Do you eyeball the person you are marking? "Definitely. It's part of the mindgames. I tell myself when I go out on the court 'I have done the work, I am good at netball, I am better than this person.' If you don't go out there with positive thoughts you are left behind from the start."
"When you walk out on court you have that arrogance about you. Not cockiness but the confidence you need. You need to be on top."
"I used to have a mental block about Cath Cox [tough veteran Australia goalshoot born, incidentally, in Whangarei]. When you are coming through you think 'Holy! It's Catherine Cox. She's so much better than me'. But when you get that game when you finally get on top of her, you get over it. It's like a weight lifted, it frees you to play your normal game."
It's that intimidation she strives to have her opponents feel about her.
To that end, we suggest that she by all means ensures the opposition know that she's a rough and tough farm girl. But by no means, Casey, let them know your nickname is Flossie!
How about my place? 11am? Come on round, says Casey Williams. And we do.