Laura Langman is a netball trailblazer, the first star Kiwi to sign up for an Australian team in the ANZ netball championship.

The Silver Ferns' veteran had a winning start with the New South Wales Swifts being rated one of the standouts as they crushed the Melbourne Vixens.

She will line up against old friends in Sydney tomorrow when the Swifts play the Waikato/BoP Magic, the team she made her name and won a title with.

The 29-year-old shoots the breeze with the Herald, including revealing her love of MMA.


What's it like coming up against a former team?

Fortunately, I've been in the situation before (after joining the Northern Mystics) and there are only a few originals left in the Magic. It's just another game. My focus is on putting my hand up and keeping a starting position here.

Has the move gone well so far?

There was a certain baptism of fire and one moment of 'ooooh, what have you done?' I thought I might get a bit of time to find my feet but within the first couple of days, I had the equivalent of an Individual Programme Plan. The expectations were made loud and clear from the start - I had to front up and make some improvements pretty quickly. It exposed parts of my game I needed to work on. And that's why I came here - for personal growth, to be in an environment to take my game to the next level. I'm only one game in but so far it has been everything I hoped it would be.

What adjustments were needed?

Defence is obviously one...I come from a background where the unit works for each other, where as here my man-on-man needed work. That is the first area I had to put a lot of work in.

Is Rob Wright your first male coach?

Yes. It's been really refreshing. He has a sound technical and tactical knowledge of the game. It doesn't really change anything - we are still playing the same game.

Your husband Adrian Pooley has stayed in Hamilton...

He comes over intermittently...I'm flatting with two girls from the Swifts, Maddy Turner and Stephanie Wood. I met them at induction in December. It's been a laugh a minute - it was a great decision going for the team flatting situation. But it's quite an adjustment, going from a home you own to flatting.

What do you miss from home?

Family and friends, and the odd Kiwi product that you can't get over here. I'm missing my big CookieTime biscuit which I always have with a cup of tea post game. But the focus is on making the most of this opportunity rather than what I'm missing.

Apart from the biscuits, what is different about the Aussie netball environment?

Both are very professional but what has struck me is the intensity at training and amount of on-court training whereas in New Zealand we might have an extra strength and conditioning session. No environment is better than the other - just different. Every ball is competed for here, every rebound, and we often walk off talking about whether the attacking or defensive end got the better of things.

The Aussies were tagged as the ones who roughed the game up - have you had to fall in line?

I'm not sure I agree with that. We have worked hard on our bodies to make sure they can handle the demands and a byproduct is a more physical game. But I don't think one nation has brought in the biff so to speak.

There is talk of major changes including the ANZ Championship being scrapped...any thoughts?

Gosh no. I'm just a player who enjoys playing.

Is there anything you would like to see changed in the game?

No. I just roll with the punches really.

Did you have a childhood hero?

No one who springs to mind...but recently I have got to admire the women's MMA (mixed martial arts). I love it. It's so great to watch. Gosh, the idea that they are standing in that ring, where the name of the game is to knock the other person out, and all they've got is their skill is a massive sign of courage and vulnerability all in one. They are amazing athletes. Ronda Rousey has been the instigator but I think they are all fantastic.

Are you superstitious?

I would say no but when I tell people of my idiosyncrasies they tell me I am. I've had the same pre-match meal all my life - English muffin with peanut butter and jam, and a cup of cereal and yoghurt. It hits the spot every time. And I enjoy a good strong coffee before the game. People think my long socks are a superstition but that's just a habit I've had since I was a kid.

You mentioned studying during our conversation...

I'm in the final stages for my chartered accountancy.

So if you weren't a netball player, you would have been an accountant?

Actually, ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a vet but studying for that didn't fit in with playing netball. I think it comes from growing up on a dairy farm. I love animals. My parents still own the farm (in Te Pahu, near Hamilton) and I still enjoy working on it. I was there in Easter, working around the place. The air always feels better in the country.

Your netball goals?

Obviously a gold medal at the world championships has eluded me so far...other than that, keep growing my skill set and see how far I can take my game. If I can inspire one more girl to take up netball every time I step on the court that would be awesome.