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How Cat came back!

The Fern favourite returns with a wedding to plan!
Cathrine Latu

Sipping on a coffee as she sits in a café in the small northern Italian town of Calvisano, her fiancé by her side as she chats on the phone to Woman’s Day, Cathrine Latu is on top of the world.

She’s a Silver Fern again after winning back her place in the national squad after two cruel omissions last year. She’s been reunited with her soon-to-be husband Jim Tuivaiti, who’s been playing rugby in Italy since August. And to top it all off, Cat’s never looked better, having lost weight and toned up.

But getting here has taken an enormous effort. It’s been a tough few months for the star athlete, who was left devastated after missing the cut for the Ferns, not once but twice. The usually stoic shooter admits there were times when all she wanted to do was cry and run away.

Cathrine’s determination has seen her come back stronger than ever. Photo: Woman’s Day

“When I sit down and think about the things that have been so rubbish for me, it’s like, ‘Holy crap! How am I still here?’” says Cathrine, 29. “I struggled mentally with it all. Being dropped the first time, just before the Netball World Cup, was really hard. I didn’t see it coming – it was tough.

“But getting dropped the second time hurt so much more. I’d put my body through so much – I’d lost weight, I’d got fit and I was the best athlete I’d been in ages. I’d tried so, so hard and it still wasn’t good enough.”

But after a few weeks of “crying, feeling sorry for myself and being a jerk to everyone”, Cathrine declared enough was enough, and it was time for her famed resilience – she calls it stubbornness – to come to the fore.

Throwing herself into training, Cathrine decided she’d try out for a third and final time. When new Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby read her name out as she announced the squad, the tears of frustration Cathrine had been crying for months were replaced with tears of joy.

“To hear the words come out of Janine’s mouth just made me tear up,” she beams. “I knew what I had done. I knew how it felt. I knew how much I wanted it. I am so proud of me. I never say that – I’m always way harder on myself than people believe – but to put myself out there and say I was going to do something, and have everything fall into place, feels amazing.”

Cathrine credits supportive fiancé Jim Tuivaiti for being a “huge part” of her success. Photo: Woman’s Day

Final countdown

It’s been a steep learning curve for the Northlander, who left her Kawakawa home at the age of 14 to play netball in Auckland. And she’s had to go through it alone, with Jim in Italy, playing for club side Rugby Calvisano.

“It was hard with Jim away,” admits Cathrine. “He’s the one that tells me to shut up, get over it and get to the gym. He’s definitely been a huge part of my success, and the whole reason why I pick myself up and carry on. He’s a good one!

“Honestly, I feel I was made for this kind of stuff. I’m good at doing things the hard way or taking the long road around. I don’t plan on it – it just happens! It’s been happening my whole life.”

Now 2016 promises to be Cathrine’s biggest year yet. She’s back for the Northern Mystics as well as the Ferns, and, of course, there’s the small matter of her summer wedding, which Jim, 28, will return to New Zealand for.

“I’ve knocked off a lot of the planning, especially the big stuff, because I’m a bit of a control freak and I wouldn’t trust anyone else with it,” Cathrine grins.

She’s even attempted to write her vows, but currently her promise consists solely of two minutes of “that trick where it looks like I’m pulling my thumb off”, she jokes.

Until the big day, Cathrine and Jim plan to make the most of their time in Europe, with trips to London and Paris, and a chance to reflect on what has been a life-changing year.

Of her svelte new figure, the netballer says, “I feel great. It was just gym and training, really. I replaced Jim with gym, because no-one else would hang out with me and go get food! I guess life would be boring if everything was easy all the time.

“It’s been such a rollercoaster lately. So many things have happened – the lows were so low and the highs incredible. It’s been a bit of everything, but I’m still standing.”

Cathrine in action on the court.

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