Netball: Silver Ferns skipper Ameliaranne Ekenasio sits out start of ANZ Premiership on 'extended medical leave'

  • 15/04/2021

By Brenton Vannisselroy, RNZ

Another of New Zealand's most high-profile national sports captains is taking a break, due to fatigue.

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio will miss the start of the national netball premiership because she's exhausted.

Her absence follows White Ferns skipper Sophie Devine sitting out the second and third Twenty20 cricket internationals against Australia, and the three subsequent one-dayers, suffering from fatigue.

Ekenasio missed last month's pre-season tournament at Ōtaki to freshen up after the Silver Ferns' Constellation Cup victory and Central Pulse chief executive Fran Scholey says she remains on "extended medical leave".

"She is exhausted and just needs to reset," Scholey says. "It's been an incredible 18 months for her and so she just needs to reset herself."

Scholey met with Ekenasio this week, but she hasn't been training with the Pulse in the lead-up to Sunday's season opener against Northern Stars in Palmerston North, and it remains to be seen when the two-time defending champions can call on their goal attack and captain.

"With any athlete, obviously, we're mindful of looking after their health and wellbeing, so we need to make sure when she returns, she's in a return-to-play programme," Scholey says.

"Our key thing around our kaupapa [policy] is that we ensure our athletes are mentally well in terms of their home life first and foremost, so that when they're able to perform at work, they're at the best of their abilities.

"Until we get any indication that that is all okay, she won't be returning to the environment."

Ekenasio hopes to play some part in the competition.

"That's exactly where she wants to be," Scholey says. "I don't think any athlete doesn't want to not be performing at their best and in their job that they love.

"Obviously, from a Pulse perspective, she's an incredible leader within our team, so we want her to be at her best when she's returning.

"We are taking all of the considerations and indications from her when she's ready and able to do that, and so we're supporting her through that process."

In Ekenasio's absence, Silver Ferns midcourter Claire Kersten will captain the Pulse.

"Claire's fantastic," says Scholey. "She's got incredible experience, she's been around the Pulse environment for a long time now and obviously she was back in with the Silver Ferns, which was fantastic for her.

"The main thing is we need to have a leader that is present at this time to set our team up for success and Ameliaranne is 100 percent supportive of that as well."

Last month, Ekenasio revealed her ongoing battle with mental health issues, taking to social media on the pressures facing her as an international athlete. 

"Just because I am a successful athlete does not mean I am immune to mental health challenges," Ekenasio posted on Instagram. 

"Just because I seemingly have everything going for me does not mean that every single day can be really damn hard. 

"It’s not always what it seems on the outside, but it’s ALWAYS IMPORTANT to ask for help."