The anatomy of a comeback: netball prodigy rebounds

One distressing knee injury after another would be enough to crush most young athletes, but not Ainsleyana Puleiata. The rising netball and sevens star tells Suzanne McFadden how she twice overcame the mental and physical torment - and now the black dress beckons.

Twelve minutes. It’s a timeframe Ainsleyana Puleiata can never wipe from her memory. Just 12 minutes was all it took to send the promising sports star into a downward spiral. A career-challenging moment the now 20-year-old breaks into tears recalling. A thrilling young talent from Porirua, excelling in both netball and rugby, Puleiata had just pushed herself through a nine-month comeback from knee surgery, and this was her first real netball game back. It was early last year, a pre-season match in Auckland with her champion Central Manawa side. A game of little importance. “I remember thinking, ‘Okay I’m the starting wing attack, I’ve worked really hard to get here’,” Puleiata says. On court she forgot about her left knee - no painful twinges; no hesitancy. Twelve uneventful minutes into the game, Puleiata took a ball in the air and landed in the left-hand pocket of the court. As she put a perfectly weighted lob into her shooter, her rebuilt knee “just caved in”. Crumpled on the ground, her only thought was: “Please don’t let it be the ACL”. Click the link to read more.