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Cat curls up with a sparkler!

The surprise proposal that made Silver Fern Cathrine Latu sob!
Cathrine Latu

The surprise proposal that made Silver Fern Cathrine Latu sob!

For some, the height of romance is a roaring fire in a remote log cabin, or a surprise date at an intimate Italian restaurant. But for busy Silver Fern Cathrine Latu, it’s simply a onesie, a good movie and a ritual haul of the mattress into the lounge, where she snuggles up with her longtime partner Jim Tuivaiti.

So it’s fitting that the living room of their West Auckland home is exactly where North Harbour rugby player Jim chose to pop the question to his lady love on their 10th anniversary.

Smiling as she shows off her new diamond ring, Cat, 28, happily admits the giant sparkler isn’t exactly what she would have chosen. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love that Jim chose what he wanted,” she says, grinning at her hunky, tattooed fiancé, who is of Samoan descent. “It means so much more to me to have his ring, his style, on my finger, rather than just giving me what I wanted.

“He’s gonna get a lot of s*** for this. But he’s amazing at being romantic.”

To be fair, Auckland-born Jim did have something a little more high-key planned – a helicopter ride on Waiheke Island and a romantic vineyard proposal. But when Cat came down with the flu the day before their milestone anniversary, the 28-year-old was forced to pull the plug on weeks of planning.

The goal shoot had recently had her appendix out as well, so she “didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything”.

Ring it in!

Nevertheless, she grudgingly agreed to a harbourside dinner for their anniversary, where the couple exchanged presents – a personalised box of chocolates and a titanium ring for Jim, and a beautiful Swarovski diamond bracelet for Cat.

But despite the landmark date, Cat never suspected that would be the night. And in truth, she felt so sick that she couldn’t wait to get home to her “oasis” to snuggle up with Jim and watch movies on the mattress. So when he asked her to fetch his mobile phone by the kitchen sink, her initial reaction was, “Get it yourself!”

But when she got to the sink, there sat a ring box. As she spun around, mouth wide open, Jim was behind her.

“This is us, Cat,” the softly-spoken rugby player and builder said. “We’re busy people with simple lives. It’s not about flashing lights, it’s not about getting down on one knee at a beach we never go to. This is our oasis, our getaway, our happy place – so where better to do this than right here? So, will you marry me?”

The usually stoic Cat admits she burst into tears and took “about five minutes to say yes!”

It’s a touching but fitting next chapter for the schoolyard sweethearts, who met when budding rugby star Jim transferred to Massey High School in his final year.

While the mutual attraction was instant, Cat – then an 18-year-old semi-pro netballer who had moved to Auckland to pursue the game – kept her new beau at arm’s length.

“Even though we were a couple, he’d try to talk to me at school and I’d just blank him!” laughs the sports star, who grew up in a loud and lively Northland household, the sixth eldest of 10 siblings.

“It sounds a bit Mean Girls, eh?” says Cat. “But I wasn’t going to let anyone – let alone a new boyfriend – get in the way of my dreams.”

Jim says that determination only made him want to be with her more!

“I always remind her she’s an inspiration to people, and she was my inspiration too – with rugby and with life in general … Of course, she’s a beautiful girl, but there’s so much more to her than that.”

A decade of love

But it’s not all been moonlight and roses or “high-fives and confetti”, as Cat puts it. “When you’ve been together 10 years, it’s easy for things to get … vanilla. It definitely got tough for a while. We went through a patch where we had to find each other again and see if we were just together out of habit or if we really wanted to be together. And we really, really did!”

Much to their families’ dismay, the couple are united in putting off starting a family for at least another year.

“We both want kids so bad, but just not right now. After this year’s Netball World Cup, we’ll talk about my ovaries!” Cat jokes.

Although long distance has always been a part of their lives, the biggest test yet will come in August this year, when Jim makes the leap to play for Italian team Calvisano, in Lombardy, until at least May 2016. Meanwhile, Cat will focus on the World Cup, her biggest dream to date.

On the upside, Christmas will be spent with her fiancé in Italy and, luckily, Jim’s already got clearance to come back for the wedding next year.

“Time’s against us,” smiles Cat. “It all has to happen fast because of netball and rugby. But we can’t wait to be married – we’re just a great team. And if we’re still doing our mattress ritual in another 100 years, then I’ll be a very happy woman.”

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