It may have taken a little coercion and several Sauvignon blancs, but former Silver Ferns skipper Anna Stanley (nee Rowberry) has agreed to return to her sporting roots and race in the women's 4x400m at the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland.
Attending her sister's 40th birthday in April, one of Anna's former New Zealand international athletics team-mates Nuree Greenhalgh posed the question of wanting to form a relay team at the quadrennial multi-sports festival and asked the netball legend to join her.
After initially resisting the plea, Anna, who skippered the Silver Ferns to the 2003 world title, later warmed to the idea “after a few wines” before agreeing to the challenge of reuniting with track and field.
“I'm from an athletics background – it was where it all started for me,” explains Anna. “I thought the World Masters Games are still three years away I have plenty of time to get my head around what I need to do. My three kids are now that bit older at seven (Jaya) six (Nico) and three (Zac) and that has given me that little bit more opportunity to do other things and this is something I can prepare for.”
Born and raised in Christchurch, Anna started competing in athletics aged five and credits the fitness and discipline needed to excel in the sport as forming the foundation for her subsequent success in netball.
She was a quality athlete, earning representative honours for her country at the Pan Pacific Games – where she won the 400m and 800m in Australia - before the Silver Ferns came calling and she opted to focus on netball from her late teens.
Anna, who ran a 400m best of 56.2 aged 16 and who also recorded 2:10 for 800m, says today still keeps “reasonably fit” by running twice a week and incorporating boxing training into her regular fitness regime.
However, when does the Auckland-based 38-year-old intend to step up her specific work for the 4x400m?
“Oh in 2016, I don't want to peak too soon,” adds the Sky Sport TV netball commentator with a laugh. “We'll probably start training a year before. It will be good fun to be a part of a team. I love running the 4x400m. I always found when I got the baton I tended to run faster than in an individual 400m. I will be (aged) 41 by then and I'd like to think we'd have done a bit of work. We certainly don't want to embarrass ourselves.”
The former Silver Ferns ace will be joined on the team by Nuree and Olivia Haddon – both former NZ international athletes – and they are seeking a fourth team member to join them.
Yet aside from her own personal goals the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist insists she would encourage anyone to compete at the 2017 World Masters Games as a means to keep fit and active, forge new friendships or even try a new sport.
“I've also heard that the masters’ athletes do like to party, so for that reason alone I would encourage people to come along,” she adds light-heartedly.
Yet there is an elephant in the room. Has she considered competing in netball at World Masters Games 2017?
“If a group of my mates wanted to play and got a group together I might be open to it,” she adds intriguingly.