By Kara Olivier
Maties Netball player Nicola Smith recently signed a six month playing contract with the English netball team, Leeds Rhinos. The talented young defender will be jetting off to join the team for six months of pre-season training starting in January 2023.
Playing club netball overseas has been Smith’s dream since she was a little girl. So it’s fair to say the netball bug bit her fairly early on.
She started playing netball at the age of seven, according to Smith, a final year B.Ed Intermediate Phase student at Stellenbosch University (SU). Back then she played goal attack and fondly recalls giving her mother “grey hair” when she had to make shots under pressure.
22-year-old Smith, who now plays goal keeper and goal defence, also represented South Africa at this year’s Commonwealth Games, where she recorded an impressive – seven rebounds, five interceptions and 17 deflections.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Matie since I was young, so SU was the only option for me,” said Smith, who grew up in Durbanville. During Smith’s Varsity Sports career, her personal highlight was being coached by two former Spar Proteas, Zanele Mdodana and Adele Niemand.
She identifies as a “social butterfly” and enjoys making connections while on tour. “Building new friendships on each tour is one of the best parts of the sport,” said Smith.
“I cannot wait to see what the season in Leeds holds for me,” said Smith. She is especially excited to meet her international coaches and experience a different style of play. During her time with the Rhinos, Smith aims to fine-tune her skills and learn as much as she can from the coaches.
“To see the results with all the hard work I’ve put in on and off court this year, all the tears this keeps me going even though it is really tough sometimes,” said Smith.
In her last year at Maties, Smith aims to help her team add a Varsity Netball gold medal to their belt. “I truly believe that we are capable of doing it. I think we are hungry enough for it,” said Smith.