Enter the Silver Ferns dressing room on game day, and DJ Tino will be in charge of the music.
That’s Ferns midcourter Whitney Souness, who’s turned a lifelong love of music into a DJ gig, playing around Wellington clubs and for her netball teammates.
When the 26-year-old plays at the Commonwealth Games this month, it will be her first pinnacle event in the black dress. And she credits her selection to finding the perfect balance between netball and her life off-court – including her emerging DJ career.
When the 12 Silver Ferns athletes, and two travelling reserves, depart for Birmingham next Thursday, Souness will have her DJ gear with her; she’s even thinking about making some new mixes for the big event. And yes, her Ferns teammates all vibe with her musical taste.
“No complaints,” she laughs. “Everyone likes the same sort of music, so we can agree that we just like chill music and we just get on with it. It’s so easy for me. I just play whatever.”
Her new era in the Silver Ferns got off to the perfect start, named MVP in the Fern’s opening game of the Cadbury Netball Series, a win over NZ A on Wednesday. Souness played three quarters at centre, a position she admits she hadn’t played consistently since high school at St Mary’s College in Wellington.
While she’s still finding her feet in the new role, she’s already combining well with seasoned wing attack Gina Crampton, and showed her keen defensive skills in the Ferns’ 61-46 loss to the New Zealand Men last night.
Souness played solely at wing attack throughout a strong domestic season for the Pulse team, who beat the Stars in the ANZ Premiership grand final; finishing with the second-most centre pass receives and fourth for feeds across the competition.
“This year, I just managed to play with a bit more mongrel and a bit more purpose,” the 14-cap Silver Fern says. “I wanted to really focus on the things the selectors have been telling me to work on for a while.
“Just having more clarity and purpose in what I was doing and putting out on-court week-in and week-out really helped me feel like I was playing with more confidence and playing better netball.”
Away from the court, Souness is also very close with her family, who all live nearby in Porirua – her older sister has four kids, and the whole family bonds over music. Her DJ Tino handle comes from her middle name, Fuatino – given to her by her late nana.
She also has a young dog named Blue, and admits she’s going to miss him while she’s in the UK. “He definitely keeps me busy, but also keeps me happy and on my toes as well,” she says.
Souness first made her debut for the Silver Ferns in August 2017, and has been in and out of the team since – not chosen for the last two major events. She last made brief appearances in the black dress in the Constellation Cup in March last year.
But this year has seen one of her best premiership seasons yet, partly down to her new life off-court.
“In the past, I’ve wanted to have a good balance between life outside netball and my training, but it’s only recently I’ve found that. I think I’ve grown up a bit more and matured more in my game so that’s helped me off-court be a bit more balanced in what I want to do,” she says.
“I have more support and I’m not afraid to ask for help and tell people if it’s too much.
“In the past, I’d do things just because but recently I’ve found saying no is okay and not always doing everything – just being okay with making those decisions for the sake of my wellbeing and me being happy on and off the court. It’s been a big learning but I’m glad I’m at where I’m at now.”
The Silver Ferns got their Birmingham preparation underway this week with a 67-48 win over a strong NZ A side.
Finishing the game with 36 feeds, two gains, two deflections, two pick ups and a very low error rate (no turnovers), Souness was one of the standouts for the Ferns team.
Ferns assistant coach Deb Fuller, who took the reins for the opening game while head coach Dame Noeline Taurua recovered from Covid, was very impressed with Souness’ first-up performance.
“Just to see her use of speed, her timing, the finesse with the ball, the understanding of where to place it for certain people because she had four different shooters she was feeding at some stage of the game. It’s lovely to see the progress from somebody like her, and it’s been a massive team effort,” said Fuller.
Souness is lining up besides Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders and Kate Heffernan in the midcourt – three players she hasn’t spent a lot of time with, but she insists the connections from the recent Silver Ferns camp are already coming together.
“We’ve gelled really well off-court, so putting that on-court is a lot easier,” Souness says.
“We had a bit of time with each other, playing different combos and really being solid in who we work really well with and what we can bring out in each other. So it’s feeling really good with the connections we’re building.”
Souness is taking her off-court role seriously too. As for her personal taste in music before a game, she’ll always have 90s and 2000s R&B on. But she’s recently been listening more to Afrobeats – the style inspired by West African pop music becoming more popular in New Zealand and the Wellington scene where Souness DJs.
“People think sometimes listening to fast music will hype you up but I find listening to more chill music makes me feel a bit more calm and easy-going for the game, which is how I like to feel heading into matches,” she says.
DJ TINO, aka Whitney Souness, prepping the Central Pulse before a game.
Her calm nature on-court has already proven her to be an asset for the Ferns, and the opportunity to wear the black dress at a pinnacle event is something Souness isn’t taking for granted.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and enjoying the moment. And I’m going to embrace being overseas – getting to play in the Commonwealth Games is pretty special.”
Alongside seeing Souness in a new bib over in the UK, we might also see a new hair colour. She’s going to re-dye her hair before she leaves, and teases it could even be purple.
*The Cadbury Netball Series continues tonight, with NZ A taking on the NZ men at 6pm, and the Silver Ferns facing the Mixed Invitational team at 8pm on Sky Sport 1. The final matches will be live on Sky Sport 1 on Saturday at 2pm and 4pm.