Mes finds picture-perfect life on and off court

Becoming a world champion may not have changed the life of Silver Fern Bailey Mes, but finding herself in her first job certainly has. 

For the first time in her topsy-turvy career, Silver Fern Bailey Mes is looking at her sport from a very different angle.

After a decade of studying, the netball world champion is finally out in the workforce, in a job that combines her two passions - sport and photography.

Mes is now part of the sports imagery team at Sky, sifting through photos of athletes like herself (although, she admits, she tries to avoid having her own image staring back at her).

She’s the first intern in the “back office” of Sky Sport, a trailblazer in their programme to help New Zealand’s top sportswomen build skills off the court or field.

Mes is working part-time, so she can keep training and playing for both the World Cup-winning Silver Ferns and the Northern Mystics.

After a couple of weeks at a desk, her understanding employers have given shooter Mes time off to play in the Constellation Cup against the Ferns’ arch-rivals the Australian Diamonds, starting on Sunday in Christchurch.

“My day-to-day life definitely feels different now, but in a good way,” the 30-year-old says. “My life has always been about having something else outside of netball.

“I’ve studied for 10 years since I left school, so it’s nice to have a different routine in a different environment.”

Last year, when Mes was in netball limbo - left out of the Silver Ferns - she turned her attention to finishing her photography diploma. Refreshed and refocused, she played her way back into the Ferns this season, in time for the World Cup in Liverpool in July. 

Soon after she returned from Liverpool, Sky offered her a job. 

“It’s scary when you enter the workplace after years of studying and playing. It’s a lot more stressful than people realise,” she says.

But she’s happy in her work - finding and preparing still images for Sky Sport Now, the broadcaster’s sports streaming service.

“A lot of it is to do with selecting the right image,” Mes explains. “There are particular restrictions over photos with every sport.”

Essentially, netball photos must have at least three Silver Ferns, who are able to be clearly seen. The same rule - which protects players' individual image rights - applies to teams like the All Blacks and White Ferns.

Bailey Mes will find herself inside the frame during the four-test Constellation Cup series. Photo: Getty Images. 

Mes, a Silver Ferns veteran with 67 international caps, starts her day around 6am, training at the gym for a few hours, before going to work at 11am. Then there's training after work.

Since the World Cup victory, there’s been no relenting in training under coach Noeline Taurua’s watch. “If anything, it’s got busier, which is good,” Mes says.

“It’s all about building on what we delivered over in Liverpool and not resting on our laurels. Especially when you come up against Australia. Both of our games in Liverpool were decided by just one goal, so we know it’s going to be a really tough, exciting series. 

“Winning the World Cup hasn’t really changed anything in my day-to-day life. But it gives you that little pang of excitement every time you see the highlights.”

Mes joins Black Ferns Sevens star Ruby Tui and Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme in Sky’s new project. Tui and Hireme have been contracted as Sky Sport commentators, while they continue to play top-level sport.

(Hireme, by the way, has just been named the NRL’s inaugural Veronica White medallist for her inspiring work off the field, encouraging young girls in the Waikato to play rugby league).

Cathryn Oliver, Sky’s sports relations manager, says she approached Netball New Zealand looking for netballers who could be guided into new careers while they continued playing. Mes’ name was instantly put forward.

Oliver took Mes on a tour of Sky’s offices in Mt Wellington, “and it wasn’t until we got to the imagery department that her eyes really lit up,” Oliver says.

“It will be a different story with everyone. They all have different strengths and passions, and we’d like to think there’s a home for everybody - where they can develop skills to use in the future.”

There are more women like Mes in the pipeline. Oliver has been working with NZ Cricket and High Performance Sport NZ to identify female athletes who could find a place working in broadcasting.

Mes only has to look across the driveway at Sky to find an ally - her old team-mate and former Silver Fern Storm Purvis, who’s been working on The Crowd Goes Wild for a year now.

Purvis was almost a guinea pig for this project and as Oliver says “she’s doing it exactly the way we think it should be done”.

“I got thrown in the deep end,” Purvis says with a laugh.

Storm Purvis co-hosting The Crowd Goes Wild with league great Wairangi Koopu. Photo: Sky Sport.

She’d just stepped down from international netball and was in the green room at Sky, when she struck up a conversation with The Crowd Goes Wild presenter James McOnie. He later messaged her asking if she was interested in working on the show.

“I was still playing netball for six months of the year, but the rest of the time I wasn’t doing a hell of a lot,” the 26-year-old says. “So they let me finish my Mystics season, and it turned into a full-time role.”

Purvis had no experience in presenting, writing or editing. But on her first day, she was sent to interview the new Warriors women’s team. 

“By the end of the week, on the Friday night, I was presenting,” she says. “And in a couple of weeks the nerves were gone. It was the best way to learn, by trial and error."

Purvis will play for the Stars again in next year’s ANZ Premiership.

“I feel like I’m in the best franchise team to make it work. [Stars coach] Kiri Wills is very understanding of having a good life balance,” she says.

“I explained to Ric Salizzo [the show’s executive producer] that I was a bit nervous about how it was going to work. As we headed into the netball season, I didn’t want to be a liability.

“But he was super understanding and said ‘You’re not going to be an athlete forever. Netball comes first now’.”

She found it tough when the Stars had Wednesday night games – having to miss two or three days of the working week - but she’s relieved that Wednesdays have been scrapped from the league schedule next year.

“That was a massive part of why I decided to do another year of netball. I would get to the end of the week absolutely shattered – trying to please everyone at work, trying to please every at netball,” she says.  

Purvis’ work duties aren’t restricted to being on camera.

“I spend most of my day in front of three screens, dissecting interviews, editing clips, writing scripts. It’s not exactly what I was expecting when I signed up for the role, but the depths of what I’ve learned in a year is amazing,” she says.

The other female reporter on The Crowd Goes Wild, Anna Willcox, had a similar introduction to the industry. A slopestyle skier at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Willcox retired after breaking her back, and then found herself on the other side of the camera.

Purvis describes herself as in a “super-long transition period – kind of on my way out of netball while building my skills for life after netball”.

Does Mes see it the same way?

“I have no idea how long I’ll keep playing. I could get injured tomorrow,” she says. “But this job is a good step in preparing me for life after netball.

“And if I can make both of them work for as long as I can, that would be the dream result.”  

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