It's been a big year for Temepara Bailey. She got married, changed her name, quit professional netball and embarked on a major career change, yet the former Silver Fern turned sports presenter says she's never been happier.
"I don't miss playing at all," says the newlywed, who returned home from her stunning Samoan wedding to take on a new job as netball presenter for Sky Sport. "This is quite a new thing for me, but I'm loving it. It's a challenge, de¬finitely, but it's really exciting."
Temepara (37) has joined with close mate, fellow athletic superstar and former Black Fern Melodie Robinson, to form the presenting team for the upcoming Fast5 Netball World Series tournament. They might be wearing evening gowns now, but come game day, we’ll see another side of the talented twosome.
"The Fast5 has a huge party atmosphere and everyone will be dressing up," says Melodie. "I've got a Catwoman costume in my closet, and I've just found out T has Batgirl, so…"
"I'll have do some serious training to not look like a baloomba in that!" laughs Temepara. Melodie and Temepara are the first ladies of New Zealand sport, having reached the very top of their respective disciplines.
Beautiful, tough, and no-nonsense, they're the perfect pair to talk Kiwi viewers through the radically different new form of netball that will be played in the international event.
It's been a period of change for both women, with Temepara settling into domestic bliss with new hubby Wayne Bailey, and Melodie (39) enjoying a stellar year that’s seen her cover the Olympics and front multiple shows for Sky.
But although Temepara's new to the art of broadcasting and Melodie's knowledge of netball is still growing, the two friends, who have known each other for years, find they balance each other perfectly. “Melodie has the broadcasting knowledge, and I’ve got the playing experience, so hopefully between us we’ll be able to cover everything," says Temepara.
"I played netball as a kid, but I stopped playing indoor netball because I was basically beaten up," laughs Melodie. "But I've been watching as much of it as I can, so I'll be all right."
For Temepara, the challenge comes from having been out of the game for only three months. "I have to make sure I don't get personal with the girls," she explains.
"I'm so close to a lot of them, so I have to make sure what I say is about the game. And also, if you say something negative, they could take it in a different way and you may never get a text again! For me, that's probably the hard part and the learning curve."
Even though she no longer has to attend the gruelling Silver Ferns and Mystics training sessions that were part of her life for so long, Temepara has found her new schedule doesn’t include as much free time as she thought it would.
"That's strange actually,” she says. “Now it's meetings and fittings and stuff like that. But I have had to get a personal trainer. When you stop training…”
"It gets bad," finishes Melodie. "We've definitely got that in common." Along with English netball star Geva Mentor, Temepara and Melodie will be fronting each game during the Fast5 weekend – and it doesn't look as if it'll be the typical presenter fare.
"We've volunteered Geva for all of the presenter challenges," says Melodie. "She doesn't know about it yet – she will now though, I guess! I hope we don't have to do too much, I can't dance. I've got one move, and that's the splits."
"If you're doing the splits Mel, our ratings will go through the roof," teases Temepara. While the weekend promises to be action packed, there's no guarantee that the Catwoman and Batgirl costumes will make an appearance, with the pair saying they much prefer the evening gowns.
"But," says Melodie, "we might be okay in them, because Geva's so tall and we're short, she'll make us look skinny. So you never know!"
Temepara's guide to Fastnet
Fastnet is netball like you’ve never seen before. With both the wing attack and wing defence positions removed from the game, and new scoring zones that allow one, two and three points per goal, it’s faster and more exciting.
The game is shorter, with four six-minute quarters, and teams are allowed rolling substitutions and one power-play quarter, where all points are doubled. “Fastnet isn’t as formal as normal test matches,” says Temepara, “so teams have a lot more freedom to express themselves and show their personalities. With fewer people on the court, there’s a lot more space for players to shine!
“I think Katrina Grant is the one to watch. She comes up with new moves every time she gets on the court. I think Malawi will be crowd favourites, too. The roll on the oor, jump and scream – they get so excited.”
The Fast5 tournament is on from November 9 to 11 at Auckland’s Vector Arena. Sky TV will screen full coverage of all games on Sky Sport 1.