Scottish Thistles netball international Iona Christian is making the most of a rare opportunity to embrace all on offer after joining forces with Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse for a short stint during the pre-season.
The opportunity was forged when Karen Atkinson, Performance Director for Scotland, and Thistles head coach Tamsin Greenway made contact with the Pulse, resulting in midcourter Christian being the delighted beneficiary.
``Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse is always looking at ways in which we can build relationships that provide opportunities and learnings within our organisation,’’ Pulse CEO Fran Scholey said.
``This unique opportunity not only provides Iona with a hands-on insight into our high performance environment and performance standards but also provides opportunities for our players and coaching staff to learn off her.’’
It’s been a quick initiation for the versatile midcourter, stepping out for her first training session on Monday, a day after shaking off the effects of jet-lag in what is shaping as a steep learning curve during her two-week stay.
``I didn’t see this coming at all and jumped at the opportunity to come into the Pulse training environment to see what it’s all about over here,’’ Christian said.
``I’m really lucky to be here and I’ve been given this great opportunity to see what it’s like to be in this environment. So, I’ll be immersed in all the fitness sessions, all the court sessions, all the gym sessions and some of the cultural sessions as well. I’m just getting stuck in and taking in everything involved in what they do on a week-to-week basis.’’
Christian, 25, has spent a number of years playing in the UK Super League, firstly for Severn Stars while she was at university in Worcester and the past three seasons for Wasps. She recently signed to play for defending champions Manchester Thunder for the coming season, the former team of 2023 Pulse shooting recruit Joyce Mvula.
Making her Scotland debut in 2021, Christian played in last year’s Commonwealth Games while also being named the best centre court player in the three-nation series with South Africa and Zimbabwe held late last year.
``Coming over here is the experience of a lifetime,’’ she said. ``These opportunities don’t come along that often so this is like a real honour and I’m loving my time here.
``There’s so much that I can take home from this experience. The style of play is so different to what I’m used to, so I’m learning lots of new drills and lots of new set-ups.
``Yvette’s (McCausland-Durie) a great coach, different to all the coach’s I’ve had in the past, so I’m learning lots from her and from the girls as well, the terminology, and the cultural side, the lifestyle. We’re aren’t fulltime athletes in the UK, so just getting used to what it’s like to be a semi-professionalathlete and being able to focus on netball is such a fantastic opportunity.’’
Christian has been warmly welcomed into the Pulse fold with both sides gaining from the experience.
``Iona has added huge value to the group since joining us,’’ McCausland-Durie said. ``She’s an incredibly fit player and it’s been invaluable having her just come in and be able to hit the ground running.
``She’s a very good student of the game, taking notes of all the new things she’s learning while also adding specifics she wants to add to her own game, particularly learning more about zone defence as she moves between wing attack and centre. We’re delighted she has been able to spend time with us.’’
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