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Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant's idyllic Fijian proposal

Loved-up Katrina has a whole new sparkle and she "couldn’t be happier"!

By Kelly Bertrand

As our photographer aims a camera, Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant tilts her head to the side as directed and lets out a loud, happy hoot of a laugh – one netball fans would have heard many times in post-match interviews.

But it's only when she catches sight of her partner Joel Rore entering the room in a dapper suit that her eyes light up and her smile grows even wider.

"Come here, fiancé!" chuckles Katrina, 31, pulling a rather shy, reluctant Joel, 26, into the shot and giving him a squeeze.

Until Joel popped the question during a romantic sunset dinner in Fiji in April, there hadn't been many reasons for Katrina to laugh this year, with the Ferns veteran battling through one of the most challenging periods of her netball career.

Following the gruelling Commonwealth Games campaign that saw the squad place a disappointing fourth, the star defender was feeling "the lowest of the low", but when her partner of two years got down on one knee to ask her to marry him, she says it was the "highest of highs".

"It was great timing!" Katrina grins, holding out her hand to reveal a stunning diamond and white gold ring. "To go from the Commonwealth Games to that, it was just amazing."

Little did Katrina know that Joel had actually been planning his idyllic island proposal since January, when the couple booked in their post-Games break.

The builder explains, "Fiji is a pretty special place for us. It's where we had our first holiday together, so I knew I had to do it."

Joel started with designing the ring himself, then made sure to ask his bride-to-be's parents for permission.

"Romantic, eh?!" Katrina laughs, waggling her eyebrows. "And then because we were going straight to Fiji from the Gold Coast, I had to smuggle the ring in my suitcase for ages," tells Joel. "Man, I was paranoid I'd lose it!"

The only thing left to do was to find the perfect moment to pop the question. But Joel had a plan for that. Katrina tells, "The last time we were in Fiji, we were supposed to do dinner at sunset on Valentine's Day, but we got too sunburnt to function, so we had to cancel. This time, Joel was like, 'Let's do it again!'"

After a few drinks at the hotel bar, a very nervous Joel and a blissfully unaware Katrina made their way down to a beachside cabana, then Joel seized his moment.

"He just got straight into it," laughs Katrina. "Before I knew it, he was looking up at me and he goes, 'Hey, before we start dinner, I just wanted to say ...' and I started to think, 'Oh, my gosh, this is maybe happening!'"

Joel told his girlfriend, "I want you to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you – will you marry me?" To which she replied, "Hell, yeah!"

Grinning, Katrina recalls, "It took me completely by surprise – I mean, we'd talked about getting married one day, but I didn't expect him to ask me then."

Although she'd originally thought of eloping, the bride says she has surprised herself by getting so excited about preparations for a small but sensational ceremony in Wellington later this year.

"All of this makes you realise there's more to life than netball," she says, gesturing to her engagement ring.

"Especially with what happened. It was pretty tough. It was tougher mentally than physically, to be honest."

Katrina's passion for her team was particularly evident when the exhausted athlete burst into tears as former Ferns star Jenny-May Clarkson asked if she still had pride in wearing the silver fern following their final loss at the Commonwealth Games.

"I didn't mean to cry!" Katrina says.

"There was just so much going on in the background and I was on this weird emotional buzz, so something was going to set me off – and asking us if we still had pride in the black dress will do it! Jenny-May's a mate and she was just doing her job. My family was more upset about it than I was. No-one likes seeing their family cry."

Now, with her Central Pulse team sitting at the top of the ANZ Premiership table and a review of the Games campaign almost complete, the star player is feeling great about netball once again – a feeling made even sweeter by knowing that whatever happens, she'll have her soulmate by her side.

"I'm really excited," Katrina grins. "It's great having him around. He gives me balance. It's too hard otherwise. It's easy when it's a good time, but when it's not, that's when you need something else – and I couldn't be happier."

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