Fluent in three languages, Amorangi Malesala represents her culture both on the netball court for the Northern Stars and in law. Despite her hectic schedule, she encourages other athletes to pursue their studies while playing.
Amorangi Malesala is quick to point out all the reasons she is where she is today – her family, her teammates, her faith.
But it’s also the 24-year-old netballer’s drive and commitment to her craft that’s helped her grow into one of the Northern Stars’ key shooters in the ANZ Premiership.
Malesala balances netball with study, in her last semester of a law degree at the University of Waikato. And she also works as a law clerk.
“It’s a bit of a juggling act,” she says, doing a lot of remote work at Laidlaw Law and Consultancy, who offer a kaupapa Māori approach to their work.
“It takes a lot of organisation and finding the time to get the work done but I consider myself to be a pretty organised person. I like to plan my weeks and what my days might look like so that way I can fit everything around netball.”
Malesala (Waikato-Maniapoto, Hāmoa) is fluent in Te Reo and Samoan, with family from Kawhia in the Waikato. Living in Auckland, she loves being close to her sister and two baby nieces, seeing them every morning.
Having played for both the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and in Australia, being able to represent her community at the Stars is something very special to her.
“It makes me really proud to share my culture with not only the Stars but our community as well,” Malesala says.
“The population in south Auckland is mainly Māori so I’m able to show the kids that getting into the ANZ Premiership is possible. Hopefully we can set a good example for rangatahi and youth to look up to.”
Being part of the Stars franchise has been one of the best team cultures she’s experienced. “We’re all diverse and we all enjoy each other’s company, not only on court but outside of netball as well. Hopefully our culture can play a massive role in terms of how we progress this season,” she says.
From a young age, Malesala was interested in making a difference in her community, and decided to follow sister Kimiora into law. She’d seen the disproportionate number of Māori and Pacific people incarcerated and wanted to make a difference for her communities.
“For me, that was a drawing card to represent my people and hopefully we can lower the statistics within the justice system,” she says.
Malesala has been studying for the last six years, and will graduate in September, hoping to be a qualified lawyer by the end of the year.
She encourages any athletes to study while they train and compete, stressing the importance of being well-rounded and having passions away from the court.
“I think athletes get pigeon-holed into just being an athlete but there’s life outside of sports as well,” she says.
“Don’t wait until you’ve finished your netball career or whatever career you’re in and then start studying. It’s possible to do it, whether it’s part-time or one paper a semester, as long as you’re pushing forward, I think that’s the main thing.”
The Stars have had just one win during this pre-season, but they made the ANZ Premiership grand final last season.
“Obviously we were disappointed with our loss to the Pulse in the grand final,” Malesala says. “Hopefully we can use that loss as motivation to go one step further.”
Their sole pre-season win came in their final game at the Ōtaki tournament – beating the Pulse by two goals.
“In that last game, we put into practise everything we’ve been talking about when we get into ruts or pressure situations,” Malesala explains.
“One of the main takeaways was just to be fearless and play with a bit of fun. And just knowing that we can back ourselves and our abilities to secure a win.”
Amorangi Malesala (left) and Maia Wilson have built a strong understanding in the Stars shooting circle
Their defensive end has seen several changes, with Kayla Johnson expecting her second baby, Anna Harrison retiring and Lisa Mather now playing in the UK.
But their shooting end remains the same – Malesala playing alongside Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume for the last three seasons.
Ex-Australian shooter and former Tactix coach Sue Hawkins has been helping the trio with their shooting technique, something Malesala believes will play “a massive part” in their shooting accuracy this season.
Malesala is known for her calm head on court and accuracy from long range – something she credits to her pre-game ritual.
“I like to do small prayers before I play, I like to close my eyes and I just really give thanks to Him,” she says.
Having a lot of game time in pre-season has helped her prepare for the upcoming ANZ Premiership. “Shooting-wise, I felt really confident. Hopefully that can flow on into the season,” she says.
Malesala believes being resilient and working hard are also key to finding success as an athlete.
“Despite any difficulties that come your way, you just need to trust in your work ethic and your talent,” she says.
“Because everyone has a talent but it’s just those extra sessions that you need to do to give you that one percent buffer.”
*The ANZ Premiership begins on Saturday, with the Northern Mystics taking on the Southern Steel at 7pm. Catch all games live on Sky Sport.