Bundy's Silver Fern is going for gold
WHEN Bundaberg's Ameliaranne Ekenasio was showing off her talent on Bundy's netball courts aged 13, Sandy Baker knew she was coaching a potential star.
Ekenasio (nee Wells) will create history in April becoming the first Bundy-born player to represent the Silver Ferns at the Commonwealth Games.
The 27-year-old was selected as part of the 12-member Kiwi squad looking to secure its first gold medal since the 2010 Games.
Ekenasio qualifies for the team through her New Zealand-born father, but getting selected has only been half of the story.
The Central Pulse player took 12 months out of the game, returning last year, after having her first baby, Ocean.
The former Queensland Firebird had just eight months and limited game time to show selectors she was fit enough and good enough to play as a shooter.
But Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby is convinced Ekenasio is fine to play.
"Ameliaranne brings another layer of experience to our attacking end and her flair at both GA and GS leaves us with plenty of options up front,” she told stuff.co.nz.
"She has performed well for the Fast5 Ferns most recently and is ready to return to the top level.”
Baker said it was no surprise Ekenasio had bounced back after the birth of her son to be selected.
She'd seen the same determination throughout her junior career.
Baker coached the former The Waves player from when she was 11 to 18 in local club and representative netball, before she was selected for the Firebirds.
"She just practised a lot with her shooting when she was younger,” she said.
"She was tall, a great shooter and just naturally talented.
"She had good technique and a strong body.”
But it wasn't always that way.
Baker said there were times the Silver Fern struggled with the game.
"In her first year as a junior she was so unco-ordinated,” she said.
"She couldn't even catch the ball properly.
"Then from about 13 years old her talent started to show.”
Baker said she would be the Silver Ferns' biggest fan when the squad hits the courts on the Gold Coast.
She said a few other Bundaberg supporters will be joining her.
"There will be a lot of support for Ameliaranne,” she said.
"The Waves as a club is really proud to have her selected to play.”
Baker said she hoped Ekenasio plays her part and wanted her to focus on high shooting statistics and making sure she is involved in plenty of plays.
New Zealand's Games campaign starts when they take on Uganda on April 5.
BUNDY'S TRIPLE TREAT FOR GAMES
THE selection of Ameliaranne Ekenasio now brings the total number of Bundaberg athletes heading to the Commonwealth Games to three.
Ekenasio will be joined by Taryn Gollshewsky (discus) and Aaron Kleinschmidt (hockey).
All three are realistic medal chances for the games.
Ekenasio will be a member of the Silver Ferns team that has not missed a medal in the past five Games while Kleinschmidt's Kookaburras have won the past five gold medals.
And if Gollshewsky can deliver a personal best in the discus final, it should be good enough to land a medal.
All in all, it is an exciting time for Bundy ahead of our home Games.