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Langman opens her home to locked-in Kiwis

In a bid to keep the netball community engaged and active in lockdown, Netball NZ are beaming a free fitness programme into Kiwi homes. 

In these strange and unsettling times, Laura Langman feels just a little funny having others inside her Sunshine Coast home.

Just to make it clear, the Silver Ferns captain isn’t flouting any Australian lockdown rules by inviting Kiwis over three days a week to watch her work-out and cook.

(The cooking is "kind of ironic,” Langman quickly points out, “because I’m very novice in the kitchen.”)

Through digital technology, Langman and former Silver Fern turned sports presenter Courtney Tairi will host a free online programme delivering fitness, netball skills and wellbeing to New Zealanders.

Starting on Thursday, the NETFIT NZ programme – much of it live - will screen three days a week, both online and on Sky Sport.

It’s a joint initiative between Netball New Zealand and Australian netball fitness organisation NETFIT, which is run by former elite netballer Sarah Wall and Diamonds midcourter Kim Green.

The timing of the programme is ideal, in the middle of a nationwide lockdown when kids – and adults – are looking for ways to keep active, fit and entertained. And also when netball, like other sports, is trying to keep its head above water and communities still engaged.

For two hours every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons, the programme will be divided into workouts, skills, nutrition and wellbeing segments - including one session a week with Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua, beaming in from her home in the Bay of Plenty. World champions Irene van Dyk and Katrina Rore will also make appearances.

“With the current environment, exercise is the first thing to go - when it’s probably the first thing that you need,” says Langman, who’s living with her husband, Adrian, in Queensland, still optimistically preparing for a possible Super Netball season with the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

“I’ve had a few messages from clubs and parents asking me to send videos to keep up-and-comers inspired and in training during Covid-19. The idea of NETFIT is getting people active, and giving kids skills, ideas - and the confidence in the kitchen to be independent and not rely on Mum. It’s really cool.”

The hosts of NETFIT NZ - Courtney Tairi and Laura Langman. Photo: NETFIT

For the past 18 months, Netball NZ has been working to bring the concept to New Zealand (it’s the first time the programme has left Australian shores). But the lockdown has sped up the delivery, and also meant having to come up with some creative thinking.

Within the bubble rules, Tairi has set up a camera and laptop in the lounge of her Auckland home to do her solo live workout clinics.  

With what’s going on in the world at the moment, it’s quite nice we are going into their homes while they get to see into ours as well,” says Tairi. “We’re sharing a connection.”

Meanwhile Langman has to rearrange the moving boxes, bikes and skateboards in her garage to film her fitness and skills tips. But she loves that New Zealanders will get a little insight into the reality of her training. 

“A lot of it is live, and I really like that you can see when we do skills and drills, it doesn’t always come easy to us either. You’ll see me drop a tennis ball and run down the driveway to stop it,” the 163-test veteran laughs.

Sarah Wall created the NETFIT business seven years ago, when she saw a gap in the market for netball fitness. There are now 65,000 people signed up to the Australian programme.

Across 12 years, Wall played for the Phoenix, Firebirds, Vixens, Swifts and Giants. “I call myself an average elite netballer – I played my best netball whenever we played in New Zealand, so New Zealanders probably know me better,” she laughs.

“Netball is in my DNA, but the competitive side doesn’t thrill me now.” She’s more interested in giving back to the netball community.

“We don’t conflict with anyone. Girls can go off and play for their teams, but this is a home base they come back to and get what they need," Wall says. "And right now, netballers can get their teams online at the same time and do the workouts together."

Tairi has known Wall off the court for 10 years, when they were involved in a 'big sister' programme for indigenous girls in Australia.

“That’s how we connected,” says Tairi, who grew up across the Tasman. “We share the same goals to bring something special to young females. We both know how fortunate we’ve been to be sportswomen and we want to pass on the knowledge and skills that we’ve learned.”

Tairi and Langman have been running clinics and masterclasses for NETFIT in Australia for the past few years, and have even delivered some holiday clinics to clubs in New Zealand. In-person clinics will be part of the programme here once the lockdown is lifted and social distancing restrictions have been relaxed.

In the meantime, it's all virtual. And it's not confined to netballers of a certain level.

 "All the NETFIT workouts will have modified versions," Tairi explains. "I do push-ups on my knees because that’s how I feel more comfortable.”

Now a netball commentator and presenter of The Kiwi League Show on Sky, Tairi says she worried about how she’d stay in shape for a month without the gym. She rushed to buy dumb-bells just before the lockdown, but has had to settle with cans of baked beans for weights.

“But that’s what I love about doing this programme - it’s keeping me fit, and giving my day structure too,” she says.   

Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie says introducing NETFIT NZ is a "positive step forward in unprecedented circumstances". 

“With the suspension of all local netball competitions and activities during the lockdown period, we felt it was important to look for an approach that kept our netball communities engaged with the sport,” she says.

Netball’s sponsors have jumped on board too - chiefly ANZ, with support from existing partners NZ Police, Special K and Netball Smart.

Langman says she's looking forward to passing on not only netball skills, but the art of making a 'mug muffin', or tips like leaving the kitchen as you found it.

“It's just like I learned growing up on the farm, if you find a gate open, close it behind you’,” the 2019 World Cup winner says. “The cooking session is really my favourite.”

Even if, by her own admission, this netball legend is no chef. 

* NETFIT NZ will be live on Sky Sport 3 from 1-3pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and also available through www.netfitnetball.com

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