Living a long way from home has been one of the biggest challenges for Rotorua netballer Erena Mikaere during her first season playing for the West Coast Fever.
Mikaere became the first netballer from New Zealand to play for an Aussie franchise in the ANZ Championship when she made her debut for the Fever this year.
The 193cm (6ft 3in) defender had a solid season for the Perth-based side, helping them reach the playoffs.
The Fever finished the year with the fourth-best record in the competition (nine wins, one draw, and three losses) but lost last Friday to the NSW Swifts, dashing their hopes of progressing any further in the playoffs.
Mikaere said there were both positives and challenges living and playing in Perth.
"The hardest moments were definitely missing home [Rotorua] and my family and good friends," she said. "[But] the best moments were definitely playing with and alongside such amazing athletes and people."
She said she was proud she and her teammates made it to the playoffs this year, despite getting knocked out of the competition last weekend.
"I was upset initially knowing how much we had worked this year, but very proud of how far we had come in such a short time, and [proud of] the structural work Fever has done this year in setting up the culture for the future."
Mikaere said she had not felt any added pressure being the first Kiwi to play for an Aussie side.
"I just wanted to think I was opening a pathway for that opportunity to happen more," she said.
"I did, however, personally find adjusting to the different playing style of the Australian game a challenge, as it is very one-on-one and man-on, which requires a high level of physical fitness and footwork which is different to the New Zealand style of game that is a lot of space marking."
Following a solid season playing for the Fever, Mikaere has been named in a squad to trial for the Silver Ferns at the start of July in Auckland. Mikaere has never played for the Silver Ferns before and said it was an honour to be named in the trial squad.
"I'm excited to be given this opportunity," she said. "Not many people get the chance to, so I'm very excited to be able to just get that opportunity and I'm a tad nervous."
Mikaere said she was planning on returning to Rotorua after the three-day trial camp.
"After trials I will head back to Rotorua for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends," she said.
"My daughter will also be flying with me, so we will be catching up on the things we miss about home like the lakes, some fishing maybe, Redwood walks, food and markets [like] Hangi and raw fish, and most definitely the hot pools. After that we will return back to Perth to continue training and see where we go to from there."
She said she had plenty of fond memories playing Saturday netball in Rotorua and was looking forward to returning to the courts on Malfroy Rd to watch her niece and friends play.
Mikaere is on a two-year contract with the Fever.