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Beko Netball League offers new start for midcourter

The Southern Blast’s Beko Netball League campaign is drawing to a close but for one of their players the penultimate match marks a new beginning.

Midcourter Dani Gray has returned to the game having recovered from a devastating knee injury and hopes to play in the Blast’s final two games of the season, including Saturday’s clash with the Northern Marvels at the ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill.

The Southern Blast is out of contention for the Beko Netball League’s Grand Final but, for Gray, the last two games are another opportunity to get valuable court time.

The 23-year-old played her first game back in Blast colours last week against Hellers Mainland, where she got 30 minutes under her belt at centre.

It has been almost a year since the midcourter suffered the knee injury – rupturing her ACL and damaging her MCL, meniscus and cartilage – in what was just her fourth match of her ANZ Premiership rookie season.

“I did feel a bit robbed at the time,” she said. “But I knew that I really wanted to give it another really good go and that’s been the goal ever since.”

Surgery on her knee was nine months ago and Gray said that’s when the hard rehabilitation work began in earnest.

“I think one of the hardest things about the knee injury is that you know that it’s going to take such a long time before you can get back on court,” she said. “It can be quite daunting.

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“I’ve been really fortunate that I’ve had plenty of support during the rehab which has been so important in getting back into the game.”

Gray, who is originally from Levin but moved to Otago University five years ago, has remained in constant contact with Blast coach and Southern Steel assistant coach Lauren Piebenga during her recovery process.

She has been playing club netball leading into her call-up to the Beko League and admits to feeling a few nerves before bibbing up again.

“I remember my team-mates asking if I was okay because I was so quiet…and I’m not normally quiet,” she said with a laugh. “But once I got out there you kind of forget about the knee and get into the game.”

Gray said returning through the Beko Netball League was a perfect avenue with a long term goal of returning to the Southern Steel midcourt and the ANZ Premiership.

“It’s certainly been great for me,” she said. “Wanting to get back into franchise netball from a club level would be a really hard ask but the Beko League offers that next step with some really tough netball.”

The Blast and Marvels are the only two teams in action this weekend with one further round to be played before the Grand Final between Central Manawa and Waikato-BOP in Christchurch on May 19.