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Until recently, the words 'what might have been' seemed to best sum up the career of Auckland netballer Rachel Rasmussen.
She was the ultimate youth prodigy, playing in the under-21 world championships as a 16-year-old. She starred in the next tournament five years later in 2005, and was good enough to trial for the Silver Ferns.
After a few years focused on starting a family, Rasmussen returned to the court and was picked up by the Mystics for the first two seasons of the ANZ Championship. But she was released before the start of last season and the 26-year-old was at her lowest ebb.
"It was definitely hard at the time," says Rasmussen. "It was heartbreaking, really. For about two weeks, I seriously thought about giving up the sport."
With strong support from coaches and family, she decided to persevere. Rasmussen played a few games for the Pulse as injury cover and, after a solid NPC season with Auckland-Waitakere, was selected for the Fastnet Ferns.
Strong performances by the 1.83m goal keep in England put her back in the spotlight and now she is in the national accelerant squad, players seen as Silver Ferns candidates within the next three years.
"[The axing from the Mystics] was a big reality check," she reflects. "It probably came at the right time because I was going through the motions. It seemed to fire up my passion."
She was unsure when the offer came from the Pulse, given their less than glorious history, but it turned into a great move.
"I really enjoyed my time there," she says. "They have great potential. We were involved in four or five close matches - we almost beat the Mystics, which I loved."
Making the accelerant squad was "huge", as she felt higher honours were "totally off the cards" until the events of the past few months. Rasmussen hopes to follow younger sister Grace into the Ferns, though she is realistic about that, given the strength of the 'fab four' at the defensive end of the court. It may be a two-to-three year goal.
There are four Rasmussen sisters, and, with a cousin and niece, they make up almost the entire line-up for the NuJacks - a team in the West Auckland club competition outside the main season.
Rasmussen was a schoolgirl star, making her first New Zealand side as a 15-year-old. She was also a gun basketballer and, together with her siblings, helped Avondale College to six national netball and basketball titles. She briefly considered basketball but "Mum made the choice" for netball.
Basketball remains an outlet and she still fields phone calls from the Auckland Stars, where she turned out as a power forward just two years ago.
She had first daughter Ruta at the age of 20 and her second, Priscilla, two years later.
Motherhood changed some priorities but it was more about a shifting commitment, as she juggled her sport with a career as a bank teller.
"With all the training and travelling in netball, you have to be fully committed to the whole scene and perhaps I lost that for a while. The Ferns have always been something I have strived for and it feels like a new year."