‘I feel stronger and fitter’

Kelly Jury was ditched from a Silver Ferns camp for failing fitness standards – but 16 months on, she tells Brendon Egan that she’s in the form of her life.



Stuff NZ Newspapers



In career-best form and the fittest she’s felt, Kelly Jury should be one of the first names jotted down in the Silver Ferns’ Commonwealth Games squad. It’s a far cry from January last year when the Central Pulse defender experienced the most embarrassing moment of her eightyear elite career. One of five players sent home from a national training camp in Wellington for not meeting the 16.3 yoyo fitness test standard, Jury was ineligible for the Ferns’ Constellation Cup squad to face Australia. What a difference a year makes. Jury was reluctant to go into that forgettable experience, preferring to concentrate on the present and her play for the Pulse. But that dark memory clearly served as a timely wakeup call. She has gone away, looked hard at her game, and returned a better person and player for the experience. ‘‘Really proud and I’ve been able to turn around my approach to fitness. It hasn’t always been my favourite thing to do and I haven’t always naturally been the fittest, fastest, or strongest player, but being able to keep improving and hit little milestones makes you want to keep pushing yourself more.’’ The 25-year-old, who has played 30 tests, revealed she was the fittest she’d been in her career – crediting the work of strength and conditioning trainer Nicole Misseldine. She had hit several personal best fitness marks this season, which was satisfying considering where she was 16 months ago. Stepping out for the first time to goal defence last season for the Pulse had been important in improving her conditioning – needing to cover more ground on court than at goal keep. Learning a new position had not only added to her versatility in the defensive circle, but given Jury a greater understanding of the goal defence role. Returning to her preferred goal keep position fulltime this season, she was better equipped to know what the goal defence needed in front of her. Jury has formed an effective combination with two-cap former Australian international Kristiana Manu’a, who was born in Wellington, and is eligible to represent New Zealand. She has been in some touch for the second-placed Pulse, who host the Stars at Wellington’s TSB Bank Arena this afternoon at 4.10pm. ‘‘I’m feeling a lot more confident this year in my body and what style of netball I want to put out there. Physically, I feel like I’ve grown in a strength and conditioning capacity. I feel stronger and fitter.’’ Her standout play is reflected in the individual defensive statistical categories. Jury entered this weekend’s matches first in the competition for deflections (73), and intercepts (23), while sitting second for rebounds (22) – behind Ferns’ team-mate Sulu Fitzpatrick of the Mystics. Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua last week praised the improvement Jury had not only made with her fitness, but her court play. ‘‘I think with what she’s been able to show and do and demonstrate week out in the ANZ games has been really heartening, so I see those shifts overall and the work she’s done behind the scenes once again physically to get her body in better shape, but to also get her feet moving and having a bigger presence on the ball,’’ Taurua said. Professional netball arrived early for Jury, who signed with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in 2014 as a Year 13 schoolgirl at New Plymouth Girls’ High. One day after signing the contract she ruptured her Achilles tendon, ruling her out of the campaign. She debuted for the Silver Ferns three years later in 2017, but cementing herself as one of the premier defenders in the country and gaining consistency in her performance has taken time. Three years ago, she moved to the Pulse and lived fulltime in Wellington, saying she was in a positive place on and off the court. Injuries have hindered her, battling a frustrating shoulder injury in 2018 and 2019. She attempted to play through it and push her selection case for the 2019 World Cup, but wasn’t at her best for the Pulse. ‘‘Unfortunately by the end of the [2019] season, the pain factor was just too high. I was unconsciously not using that arm, which did affect my play in the end. Probably the 2020 season, my first season at Pulse, that was all about getting back on court and being comfortable again with my shoulder.’’ Jury has relished working with Pulse coach Yvette McCauslandDurie, who returned to coach the team this year after a season away, and says learning off Pulse defens ive specialist and former Silver Ferns coach and captain Wai Taumaunu, had been invaluable. Taumaunu was a tough taskmaster, who demanded excellence, but that had only strengthened Jury’s game and attitude. ‘‘She’s up front. She’s honest and you know where you stand with her. You know she just wants the best from you and she’ll push you until she gets that.’’ There was uncertainty how the new-look Pulse would go this season following the departures of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Claire Kersten and Katrina Rore to the Magic. Rore hasn’t ended up taking the court due to pregnancy. The Pulse have won six of their 10 games and are on track for the finals with five matches left. Given the second-worst title odds ($9) by the TAB at the start of the season, with only the Steel ($11) less fancied, the Pulse have silenced their critics. ‘‘I’m really proud of what we’ve managed to achieve so far, especially considering that a lot of people did write us off at the start of the year expecting us not to perform as well. We’ve got an awesome group of girls and I think what makes us push harder is we’ve got extremely high expectations of each other. ‘‘We push each other really hard and when you get that disappointed after a loss you know it means a lot to the girls.’’ A member of the Ferns’ 2018 Commonwealth Games squad, which suffered the ignominy of failing to medal for the first time and finishing fourth, Jury would love to feature at her second Games. Her fitness growth and excellent play for the Pulse should see her as a certainty in the Ferns’ squad. But she says she won’t take anything for granted. ‘‘At the moment I’m just fully focused on Pulse, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind the Ferns’ selection. It’s always special to represent your country, but even more so at the Commonwealth Games. There’s lots of competition for those defensive bibs, which is awesome for netball in New Zealand.’’