From College Hall socialite to long-limed dominator. Kelly Jury’s meteoric rise to prominence with the Silver Ferns will come as little surprise to those who knew her before the fame and glory. Jury’s on-court tenacity and strong desire to win has confirmed her status as one of New Zealand Netballs’ rising stars. Described by Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, as a “long-limbed defender who’s a constant danger with her disruptive lean and rebounding ability”; though to some on campus, she’s still known as the really fucking tall girl next door.
Nexus: How long have you known that netball was your thing?
KJ: I started playing netball when I was seven. Coming from a sporty family, I obviously tried to play as many other sports as possible. Tennis was one of the other sports that I really loved. From a young age, I played a lot of representative tennis for Taranaki and got a lot of professional coaching. It’s fair to say that tennis held priority over netball for a big part of my life. It wasn’t till I was 14 that I switched that around and really wanted to give netball a crack after I surprisingly made the New Plymouth Girls High Senior A team when I was Year 9. So it was really from then that I put a lot of focus into my netball.
Nexus: Is there any experience in particular that felt like your ‘I made it’ moment?
KJ: I wouldn’t call it an “‘I made it’ moment”, but I will always remember walking into my first Magic training. First, meeting all the girls and just pinching myself that I was going to be playing in the same team as the likes of Leana De Bruin and Casey Kopua who I’d looked up to for years, as well as Jo Harten who is an English international. If I had to name an “‘I made it’ moment” though, it would definitely have to be my debut for the Ferns in Liverpool.
Nexus: How have you found balancing study with your sport?
KJ: I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the Hillary Scholarship programme, and they have provided me with a lot of support in this area especially. It can be challenging, but if you’re organised and have good communication with your lecturers and tutors, it’s definitely doable. With the build-up to the Commonwealth Games, netball had to take a massive priority, so I put a pause on my studies. I’ll pick my papers back up in B Semester. I’ll be studying for a couple more years yet due me only [studying], but I’ll get there in the end.
Nexus: You’ve recently been to the Commonwealth Games – what was the highlight, and what does it really feel like to be a Commonwealth athlete?
KJ: It was such a cool experience. The athlete village was obviously incredible and just being surrounded by the best athletes in the world was surreal. A major highlight would definitely be walking in the opening ceremony. The other would just have to be being apart of Team NZ and getting to know all the other athletes from their respective sports. Netball isn’t involved in the Olympics, so the Commonwealth Games is the only tournament in which we travel with other sports and Athletes. I vividly remember watching the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games Netball finals where New Zealand beat Australia in double extra time to bring home the gold medal. I definitely wouldn’t have believed anyone if someone had told me that I’d be playing in the Commonwealth Games eight years later.
Nexus: You’ve received an impressive number of titles and awards to date – do you feel like your successes have been specific goals of yours, or more like surprising strokes of chance?
KJ: Looking back, it hasn’t been easy. I never made all of the Taranaki age group representative teams, and one of my biggest heartbreaks at the time was missing out on the New Zealand secondary school team at the start of my final year of high school. I was absolutely devastated at the time, and all I could think was if I can’t make the team, I’ll never be able to make any of the higher NZ teams in the future. For the rest of that year, I just set out to prove to those selectors that they’d made a mistake. My initial plan to go to university, find a club team and hopefully pick up an ANZ franchise contract. A couple of years later, I was fast-tracked when I received a call from the WBOP magic coach while I was at school to find out I’d been offered a contract to play for the franchise. I was in complete shock as I never really considered the possibility of that happening. It didn’t have a chance to sink in before reality hit back when I ruptured my Achilles tendon the very next day. I spent my first season of Magic in 2015 on the sidelines, teaching my body how to run and play netball again. It was hard at the time only being able to watch but I was so grateful in being able to watch and just soak up as much information as possible, so when the time came for me to finally be able to get on the court I knew exactly what was required and expected of me.
Nexus: We have to mention the impressive height. You’re 1.92 metres tall; is that a family thing, and did you ever consider, let’s say, basketball or modelling?
KJ: Most of my family are above average in height, so it was bound to happen. My grandmother is only about 5 foot three, so I missed those genes [laughs]. I’d only played a little bit of social basketball growing up but our school rules were that you couldn’t play in both the Senior A Netball and basketball team so I ultimately had to make a choice early on. It was also a ‘no’ to modelling [laughs].
Nexus: Where to from here?
KJ: Round one of The ANZ Premiership starts on the 6th of May where we face the Central Pulse down in Palmerston North. So after having a good two-week break away from netball after the Commonwealth Games, I’ll head back into training fully with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic for my fourth season. Looking beyond ANZ, we will go straight back into the international season with two big series at the end of the year (Constellation and Taini Jamieson). The big focus for the Silver Ferns now is looking towards the Netball World Cup held in Liverpool in July next year.
Nexus: What would your advice be for other aspiring athletes?
KJ: My advice would be to make sure you love what you’re doing. There is no point in doing anything if your heart isn’t fully in it. Another big thing I was always told was to make the most of every opportunity because you never know who’s watching from the sidelines.