‘I can’t believe it’: Former Silver Fern Courtney Tairi on her new ‘dream job’

The netball star has pivoted to an unlikely new career.
Courtney Tairi

Former Silver Fern Courtney Tairi is used to doing things just a little differently.

Take her netball journey, for example.

Born in Australia to Kiwi parents, Courtney (31) spent her life vying for spots in Aussie’s domestic league.

She played three seasons for the New South Wales Swifts before returning to New Zealand, determined to fulfil her dream of becoming a Fern.

Always calling herself a Kiwi, despite what it said on her birth certificate, the stunning athlete achieved her dream despite three potentially career-ending injuries.

“Yup, I have the scars to prove it!” she says, gesturing to her knees, which bear the marks of two anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions – and she also had an Achilles tendon repair after a rupture in 2015.

But it’s these injuries that helped lead Courtney to an unexpected passion – one that would eventually eclipse her lofty netball ambitions.

Hosting The Kiwi League Show alongside Monty Betham on Sky Sport.

These days Courtney can call herself a broadcaster and presenter, fronting The Kiwi League Show alongside Monty Betham on Sky Sport, as well as covering all manner of sporting events for the network.

It’s a dream job, and one Courtney can’t quite believe she has.

“People who know me can’t believe it either,” she says, laughing.

“I used to be really shy and quiet. But I think as I took on more senior roles in my netball teams, and those captaincy roles, I got so much more confident and I found my voice. And here I am now – I think Sky almost Mr Miyagi-ed me into this.

“I’d gotten to the point in my netball career where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep playing, and my body was clearly telling me to stop! It was a hard decision though, giving up netball. I’d been playing professionally for nine years – it was all I knew – and saying goodbye to that was scary. But after all the surgeries, I was in pain every day.”

Thanks to her former Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald, who encouraged her players to take any opportunity if it helped raise the profile and mana of netball in New Zealand, Courtney happily accepted a growing number of assignments thrown at her by Sky Sport, and it was during a training day with Ian Smith, the voice of New Zealand cricket, that she realised where her future lay.

“That whole day, I just loved being there,” she says with a smile.

“Especially compared to the netball trainings – my whole body was so sore every time. So I figured out where my passion was heading, and I’ve been here ever since. There are so many awesome women working at Sky Sport too, with their Women in Sport initiative, so I’m always surrounded by amazing people – athletes and those behind the scenes.”

In just two years she’s proven herself to be quite the tour de force, with personal highlights that include an interview with Serena Williams at last month’s ASB Classic.

“She was amazing,” says Courtney.

“That was such a pinnacle for me, it was a dream come true.”

Courtney’s big moment interviewing Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki

Another high point was covering her beloved Silver Ferns’ epic World Cup win in Liverpool last year.

“Being there with the girls was unreal,” she says.

“I sensed that team was special, and what Noels [coach Dame Noeline Taurua] was building. It was such an amazing time for netball.”

Courtney is especially excited at the prospect of seeing the team at this month’s Halberg Awards, for which she’ll be working the red carpet.

The Silver Ferns are up for Team of the Year, with Dame Noeline also in contention for Coach of the Year, and captain fantastic Laura Langman a contender for Sportswoman of the Year.

“I’ll definitely have a soft spot for the netballers on the red carpet!” she says.

“To see all the athletes all dressed up and made up is amazing, and it’s so nice they get to have a bit of time together to celebrate all they’ve done.

“But it’s not just the Ferns. So many awesome female athletes are up for awards this year, so it’s going to be a great night for women in sport.”

She points out that four of the five teams nominated for Team of the Year are comprised of wāhine – the Silver Ferns, Black Ferns Sevens and women’s doubles and eights rowing crews – with the Black Caps the lone male team.

For the first time, the awards will be screened live on Prime, so every New Zealander will have the chance to see their beloved athletes take to the red carpet.

“I mean, it’s New Zealand’s Oscars!” Courtney says, laughing.

“But at the end of the day, it’s all for the kids that the Halberg Foundation supports. Seeing their little faces light up when they get to have a go playing sport is just the best feeling in the world.”

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