Courtney Tairi's world cup dream

Since retiring from netball, the former Silver Fern is smashing new goals

By Catherine Milford
She's interviewed sports legends from Serena Williams to Beauden Barrett, and last year she ticked a bucket- list item by commentating at Israel Adesanya's UFC fight at the hallowed Madison Square Garden.
But Courtney Tairi's heart lies in the sport she loves most – netball. And she has certainly earned her place as commentator in the all-female Sky Sports team at the 2023 Netball World Cup, which started on July 28 in Cape Town, South Africa.
The daughter of a rugby league player and a netballer – her dad and uncle started the Māori league in New Zealand and Sydney – little Courtney was always active. Raised in Western Sydney, she spent her early days playing touch and shooting hoops with her dad in the driveway, on the touch and athletics fields in summer, then the netball courts in winter.
Interviewing tennis ace Serena.
"I grew up with athletes, in an athlete environment, so I can really relate to the highs and lows the players are going through when they are out there," tells Courtney, who spent her 35th birthday commentating the All Blacks vs South Africa rugby match on July 15. "I get really excited. My adrenaline is still high and I still read the game as if I'm playing it."
However, with two knee replacements and a left Achilles reconstruction done when she was 19 and 24, the former Silver Fern is very happy to be talking about netball rather than playing. "All my injuries were done by defenders taking my knees out from under me.
These days, I don't jump like I used to do on the netball court. I do still occasionally play, when my friends ask me for their social teams, but the other teams say it's not fair that I'm there. So I do play, but just not that hard!"
But while she may not be holding the ball, Courtney says there won't be much downtime while she's in Cape Town. "Actually, it's crazier being on this side of the fence," she laughs. "As a commentator, you're always working in different time zones. So I'll be working during the day to get stories, but also doing live crosses, and half-time and post-match interviews. Mostly, there's no time to do much more than work, come back to a late dinner and do it all again the next day."
Netball greats: On air with (from left) Storm Purvis, Jenny Woods and Adine Wilson.
And she wouldn't change a thing. "I had a few plans for when I retired from netball, but this job didn't occur to me," she says. "All the female athletes were encouraged to study while we played, so I have a commerce degree in sports management in case I wanted to be an agent, and a diploma in education so I could be a teacher. But in 2016, Sky asked me to start doing really small jobs – I feel like they 'Mr Miyagi'd' me! They trained me for two years, then once I decided in 2017 that I'd retire, they told me they had a job for me. And I absolutely love it."
Although commentating keeps her busy, Courtney still finds time to help upskill young teams and players. She and fellow Silver Fern Laura Langman are the face of Netfit NZ, where netball stars teach in schools and provide one-on-one coaching to youngsters wanting to learn the sport.
"I really like education and coaching. When the role of head coach for the Mystics came up, some of the girls asked me if I'd apply, but I don't think I'm ready yet. One day I might start as a specialist or an assistant coach, but a head coach job consumes your whole life. And I'd have to give up what I'm doing, which I don't want to do."
Although she's yet to move fully into the education sector, Courtney takes her role as a mentor to kids seriously.
"As a child, I grew up watching [Australian sprinter] Cathy Freeman on TV and I remember thinking I wanted to be like her. She was my inspiration. My job now is to tell the stories of other athletes and how they feel.
"I feel a huge responsibility to be in people's lounges and representing sport for other little girls who are looking at me the way I looked at Cathy."
And her prediction for the Netball World Cup?
"Jamaica looks very dangerous," she warns. "Although my top three would be New Zealand, Australia and Jamaica – I can't predict in which order though!"

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