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Hard work pays off for rejuvenated Pulse shooter

The change in circumstance couldn’t be more defined for Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who has been in the form of her life during this year’s ANZ Premiership netball competition.

It is a far cry from last season when the lithe figure of the silky-smooth operator struggled to gain regular court time, warming the bench providing plenty of time for reflection.

``Last year, I had to do a heap of work off-court, on-court, in the gym……everything really to earn my spot back and to make my way back in the team. And now, all that hard work has definitely paid off,’’ she said.

``Confidence, for me, is something that’s not always 100 percent there, so I just really want to continue to play, find it, feel good and really enjoy it out there.’’

After being courted by other teams during the off-season, Ekenasio, 28, is delighted she opted to stay put and is now having a whale of a time as a key cog in the unbeaten Pulse line-up and mentor to her exciting young shooting partner Aliyah Dunn.

``I’m really happy that I didn’t have to move away from my family,’’ she said. ``We’re creating some really great things here. I truly believe in what we’re doing, what we’re building and I think we can still do more, so it’s a good space to be in.’’

Playing together regularly this season, Ekenasio is relishing her budding partnership with the teenaged Dunn, which she predicts can only get better.

``Aliyah’s got huge potential and we’ve only just scratched the surface of it,’’ Ekenasio said. ``She’s young, she’s so good and it’s all natural at the moment, so I honestly can’t wait to see what’s to come. She is the next big thing.

``We have not hit our straps yet in any regards, even in our best games, I would only rate us as about 70 percent. There’s heaps more to come from us, I only hope we find it this season.’’

By sharing the load in and around the circle, the pair has created an imposing presence which keeps defenders on their toes.

``The majority of the time, we both have to turn it on during a game, there’s not just one dominant shooter,’’ Ekenasio said. ``Aliyah is pretty dominant in there which is her role but I think the fact that our team can turn to both of us in times of need is a really big strength because you can’t just have one shooter.’’

Despite their unbeaten run through 10 rounds and with an important away double-header coming up against the Magic in the third and final instalment of Super Sunday in Invercargill followed by a match-up with the Southern Steel in the same city on Monday, staying grounded is not an issue.

``We still know we’ve all got room to grow and we expect each other to grow, and that is what we’re planning for the rest of the season,’’ Ekenasio said. ``We don’t want to plateau out or anything like that, so it’s exciting as it still doesn’t feel like we’ve hit our full potential.’’

Showing their ability to dazzle or grind out a game depending on the situation has been a key learning point for the Pulse this year.

``Pressure was a big one for us last year,’’ Ekenasio said. ``Being able to absorb the pressure of the game this year has been huge in helping us get over those hurdles and get our wins. We’re slowly learning to become a team that knows how to win no matter what the circumstances which is really exciting to see from all of us.’’

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