By Newshub national correspondent Amanda Gillies
Silver Ferns and Northern Mystics star Sulu Fitzpatrick has revealed she will retire from the game after next year's World Cup to focus on her children.
The 29-year-old is mum to twins and wants to spend more time with them.
She admitted to Newshub she hadn’t planned to become a mum eight years ago.
Fitzpatrick was just 20, a rising netball star struggling with alcohol and mental health. She’d just been dropped from the Silver Ferns, and falling pregnant with twins left her shocked and struggling.
"When I fell pregnant, it was not planned at all, it was a big surprise," Fitzpatrick said. "I was definitely a child myself and so I wasn’t ready for kids."
But twins Tevita and Theresa became her life - her purpose, her motivation, her inspiration.
"God blessed me with these twins, they brought me back to earth, they put everything into perspective and taught me so much… what was really important in life."
When Fitzpatrick became a mum, she found out who she really was. She gave away the alcohol, reconnected with her family and Samoan culture, and refocused on her sporting career. She became a Silver Fern again - one of the best.
Fitzpatrick said slipping into that black dress - for the second time - was magic.
"I had a lot more gratitude, because I understood what it meant more," she smiled. "The first time I wore it... I was taking the piss to be honest."
She now wears it not just for herself, but for her support crew, including her parents, grandparents, partner, siblings and loudest cheerleaders - her children.
"I am very grateful for my village - I definitely would not still be playing right now. I would be long gone.
"I would have been a has-been - I don't think I would have gotten into the black dress. It's them, I just get to do the fun part."
She hopes to continue that fun at the Commonwealth Games this year, but admits she's still battling long COVID-19. She caught the virus at the end of January and her lungs are still suffering.
"I don't want to go there, and be a liability or to be carried. I want to go there and play my best netball, so that's 100 percent the goal."
Then next year, Fitzpatrick plans to walk away from the game she started when she was just four. During the morning school run, she told Newshub it’s all about the kids.
"I have promised them I will finish netball next year… I will, for them."
Fitzpatrick took home the Lois Muir Supreme Award from last year's NZ Netball Awards, succeeding three-time winner Laura Langman. She obviously has a few more years left in her career, if she choses.
"My body might be able to do more, but I’m happy that the next ones coming through are ready and I don’t want to be taking much longer off their time as well, so this old lady can watch from the side and enjoy. It might be nice on the legs."
What about coaching netball instead?
"A few people have mentioned coaching, but I don't know if I can emotionally take it. I don’t mind the talking and all those things, but I don’t know how I would be not selecting players and things like that."
A career in social work also beckons. This week, Fitzpatrick finally graduated from Auckland University with a Bachelor of Arts - 11 years after she began study.
"It feels really surreal... I was umming and ahhing about going to the in-person ceremony, because there will be a grandma walking with all the young kids," she laughed. "But I decided it was not about me, but my family who got me there."
With graduation finally done, Fitzpatrick can now fully focus on leading her Northern Mystics team to another championship next month, with her kids proudly cheering her on.