It’s been a rather remarkable 12 months for Silver Fern and Southern Steel netballer Jane Watson.
Making her debut for the national side last August, the gorgeous blonde defender stunned coaches, commentators and even herself with one of the best first games in recent times, which saw her lauded as netball’s next big thing. But the best was yet to come for the born-and-raised Cantabrian because just a few months later, Jane, 27, was celebrating another massive milestone – her engagement!
Sitting down with Woman’s Day alongside her proud fiancé Will Carter, 26, in their cosy home in Leeston, just south of Christchurch, Jane admits it’s been a roller-coaster ride. The same could be said for her and Will’s entire relationship, which began two years ago, when blackcurrant farmer Will filled in for Jane’s social volleyball team.
“I wasn’t expecting it – any of it!” she laughs, offering her hand to reveal a very impressive engagement ring. Explains Will, “Jane had seen a ring she really liked when we were holidaying in Queenstown last year and I remembered which one it was.
“So when I thought it was the right time to start looking properly, I got the same one from a shop in Christchurch – just with a bigger rock in the middle!”
Along with the perfect ring, Will was determined to pull off the perfect proposal. However, his carefully laid plans were nearly foiled by some awful weather, a reluctant Jane and hordes of bystanders.
His grand idea was to repeat their first date – dinner at a local restaurant, followed by a trip up to a lookout in the Cashmere Hills.
“I’m trying to hurry up at dinner because I wanted to get up to the lookout when the sun was setting,” remembers Will.
Jane laughs, “And I’m thinking, ‘Why do you know when the sun sets?’ It seemed like a pretty stupid thing to know! I just wanted to go to a movie.”
Once they were up in the hills, the weather turned “bloody terrible”, Will nods, and a bemused and chilly Jane couldn’t figure out why her boyfriend wouldn’t give her his jacket or at least give her a hug. Of course, the box was in his coat pocket.
“I remember saying, ‘Just cuddle me – I’m freezing!’” she laughs. By now, Jane was suspicious and a very nervous Will was desperately looking for a good spot to pop the question, but he couldn’t find a place away from other people.
Eventually, he sneaked up behind Jane, got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
“And I can’t remember anything about it,” Jane tells grinning. “I said yes, though!”
A few months on, Jane admits she has to sometimes pinch herself over how things are falling into place – she certainly didn’t expect to meet the love of her life at social volleyball.
“He turned up to that first game and he just didn’t leave!” she remarks, throwing Will a sly look.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really in it for the volleyball after that,” he admits. After plucking up the courage to ask for the talented athlete’s phone number, the pair began dating at the end of 2015 – and Jane promptly moved from her hometown of Christchurch to Invercargill in order to play for the Southern Steel.
“It wasn’t great timing,” Jane nods. “I pretty much left him straight away to head down south.”
Since then, during the netball season, the couple maintain a long-distance relationship, which Will confirms has its difficult moments.
“It can be tough,” he says. “Jane tries to come back every two or three weeks, but if it’s any longer than that, it starts to suck. I live here by myself then, so all I have to talk to is our dog Blue and the cat Diesel. She just slots back in perfectly when she comes home. Our relationship is very easy.”
Adds Jane, “We’re just ourselves around each other – I think that’s the best thing. It feels like we’ve been together for a really long time, like we’ve known each other forever. We’re quite similar with our values and things like that, and we’re very competitive!”
The pair are so spirited, their impressive collection of board games has been relegated to a cupboard.
“We can’t play them,” tells Will, shaking his head. “We get ... Well, I get pretty fired up. I don’t like to lose. I’ll go and sulk if I lose. But we’re really chilled-out about everything else.”
However, Jane knows she can count on Will to be her biggest cheerleader on the sidelines as she eyes up a place in this year’s Silver Ferns squad.
“Before I met Jane, I didn’t really understand netball,” says Will. “But I’ve gone from knowing absolutely nothing to now, where I reckon I could coach a team.”
“Oh, God,” laughs Jane. “Please don’t!”
She concludes, “It is going to be a big year, particularly with the Commonwealth Games coming up next year. So fingers crossed!”
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