"I swear I'm just not meant for smooth sailing."
You'll never die wondering what Katrina Rore (nee Grant) thinks.
The Silver Ferns star operates a fairly unfiltered approach to life, but the past year has left even her a little bit speechless.
While she's now able to laugh about it through her chat with the Weekly, Katrina (32) admits she's been through the absolute wringer over the last, rather sensational, 18 months that saw her enjoy the highest of highs and suffer the lowest of lows.
"Okay, so here's how it happened," she says with a wry smile and holding up her fingers to count down.
"First was Commonwealth Games – the worst finish we've ever had," she begins. Netball fans will remember the heart-breaking moment Katrina burst into tears when asked if she had any pride left in the black dress following the Ferns' devastating loss to England.
"But then I got engaged," she continues.
"Played some netball, then I got married to Joel, the most amazing man. A week later, I got dropped from the team. Then, the Pulse won an ANZ Premiership. Then I made the World Cup team − and then I got injured.
"I mean, come on. I feel like the last year has aged me about 10. It's like the sport universe was saying, 'Here's your dream... oh wait, just kidding!'"
Comparing her last year or so in the black bib to a rollercoaster almost seems too much of an understatement for the talented defender, and Katrina admits she was "gutted" to be left out of the squad. While she tried to be philosophical about the decision, it hurt.
At the time she said, "No doubt the last few days have been tough, but things happen for a reason. I need to go away over the summer and work on my netball consistency. I've never been the most naturally talented athlete. But I make up for that with hard work... the World Cup in July is still my goal."
Speaking today, Katrina confides that it certainly took more than a few days to come to terms with the heartache.
"There are so many emotions that go along with it all," she says. "Honestly, I don't think people really understand the massive mental side of sport. It's huge. But I'm very lucky, Joel is so good – he's a keeper! He deals with my dark days and he knows when I'm not myself. I reckon that if you didn't have that, you'd be in trouble."
Indeed, many athletes before her have ventured down a dark path in similar circumstances but, after a few moments of uncertainty, Katrina says she knew what she had to do.
"Do I stop and try to have babies?" was one option, as was travel, or simply stopping to enjoy married life with Joel.
"Or, do I fight?" she continues. "Eventually, I realised that this was put in front of me for a reason, and it motivated me to want to get better.
"I love a challenge and I've never been one to chuck in the towel just because things get hard. So I committed to trying to get back in the team."
Instead of throwing herself into rigorous training, Katrina approached her comeback with a new priority – balance.
Having realised her life was dominated by sport, the Pulse captain took the summer to actually enjoy life with Joel, family and friends. She got into other sport and training types – at Joel's encouragement she took up CrossFit in a massive way – and continued to work on her fitness.
"Actually having a summer was amazing," she smiles.
"I spent a lot of time with different groups of mates, ones that have nothing to do with netball where I could switch off from work. It really made me understand that enjoyment was key and that if I wanted to keep going, I needed to enjoy netball again."
That's exactly what she did, captaining her beloved Pulse team to an ANZ Premiership title in June.
She believes her new philosophical approach to balance definitely helped her be a better athlete, as well as a better leader.
"When I was at the Pulse, I made sure I was 100% in it and enjoying it. But as soon as I left training, that was it. I'd get home and I'd be non-netball Katrina. Pulse was Pulse, and out of Pulse was out of Pulse. I enjoyed my season so much, and my eyes had been opened up to the fact that this job could be taken away from me at any stage. I knew I couldn't take anything for granted. I think that was really important."
And finally, after six months of hard slog, came the call from Ferns coach Noeline Taurua that Katrina had been hoping for – she had earned a re-call intothe World Cup squad.
"I just stood there," Katrina laughs, remembering the call. "Oh, it was awesome; it was the same, if not better, than when I first made the team."
And now, after overcoming a calf strain that threatened to derail her comeback – "Don't get me started on that!" she says, eyes rolling – Katrina made her mark in Liverpool at the World Cup, both in her usual goal keep and goal defence positions, but also in a new one, wing defence.
It's a much improved Silver Ferns outfit, nods Katrina, and one that doesn't shy away of telling it like it is.
"We push each other to the limits – we want the best for each other, and we're not afraid to let each other know when we want more," she nods.
While she acknowledges she couldn't have done it without her pals, Katrina admits she's also proud of herself, and just happy to be representing her country once again.
"I'm very fortunate and if I've learnt anything, it's that hard work really does pay off. And at least I'm never boring."
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