Cat Tuivaiti is joining the management team of head coach Melissa Bessell at Severn Stars for the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season.
The New Zealand international shooter, who previously played for Strathclyde Sirens in the Superleague before announcing her pregnancy, is set to return to the UK in a coaching capacity.
Tuivaiti’s natural flair and instinct on court meant she quickly became one of the league’s favourites last time around, and it was not surprising to hear from Bessell her new coach’s services were highly sought after.
“Cat is family to me,” Bessell said to Sky Sports. “She was headhunted by so many of the franchises asking her whether she could come back and be a player-coach.
“Before we had the lockdown in England, I’d been over to Italy to see her and her son Bash [Sebastian] anyway. I asked her what she was planning on doing, whether she was going to play or not, and she shared that she’d like to get into coaching.
“I said straight away that she could be with me. I knew that I needed someone to help with my shooters and knew that Cat could take it to a different level.
“She brings so much and things that are just so amazing.”
Thanks for letting me borrow your coach for the weekend @SevernStars ☺️ pic.twitter.com/zBartFYMw4
Tuivaiti and Bessell share a close bond, Bessell’s brother calls her ‘Sis’ and Tuivaiti’s netball career actually started with the help of the Stars head coach’s family.
“My mother actually found her as a netballer. Mum drove up north [in New Zealand], she was driving through where Cat lived and went to watch a school netball tournament.
“She saw this netballer giving a lot of attitude on the court and said that there was something special about her. My mum got Cat a school scholarship so then drove up to Cat’s family home, met her mum and dad, and brought Cat back for her netball.
“She lived with my mum and my dad, hence why there’s such a close relationship between our families. Cat is an extension of my family that is how it all started.
“There’s a very special connection between Cat and I, I’m like her big sister. I’ve always been her sounding board, when things have got tough or she just wants a shoulder to lean on… I’m there.”
Severn Stars Squad – 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season
Tuivaiti, whose husband Jimmy plays professional rugby in Italy, is set to arrive in England in the New Year and when she does, she will join the Severn Stars head coach’s family home.
Before then, Tuivaiti will be linking into the franchise via video conferences and in their first last week, Bessell was thrilled the whole management team responded to her presence.
“We’ve already planned her route; she’s going to fly into London, and I’ll pick her up from the airport. She’s already got her room set up and she’ll be in my family bubble,” Bessell said.
“She’s not going to come over before Christmas, because we’ll do everything via Zoom before then instead. Then, when the New Year hits, she’ll come over and if she stays with me for a couple of months or more, that’s what we’ll do.
“We had a brilliant meeting as a management team last week and I was so excited when I got off it, because Cat brought everything that I knew she would to that meeting.
“It just showed everybody within the management team, why she’s the one for us. She’s going to be something special this year.
“Cat’s really excited and can’t wait to get into it. This is something new for her… I’m not saying that she would never play again either, because she’s looking pretty good but for this season, to have her in a coaching capacity is a real bonus.”
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a netball nerd! I have always endeavoured to study this game and fantasise about how to play it like no-one else. I’m so excited to have my first coaching experience with Severn Stars. The whole team is riddled with a variety of skills, experience and personality. I can’t wait to get amongst it – expect the unexpected!
Tuivaiti will be the second current/former player within Bessell’s coaching unit, after Sam Cook took up the role of assistant coach last season.
The trio have an incredibly motivated and passionate squad to work with too, which is going to be led by Liana Leota as captain and Nia Jones as vice-captain.
This happy to be locked in with @SevernStars again for 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣1️⃣! Let’s get to work 💫 🔒🤩💥✊🤾♀️🌟 pic.twitter.com/Yc7uihgBor
“It’s another string to our bow,” Jones said about Tuivaiti’s arrival.
“When Melissa was the Welsh coach, I worked with Cat before and we learnt so much from her then. She’s got such a great way with people. She’s really direct but actually really chilled out at the same time.
“Cat’s full of fun and has a wicked sense of humour. I’ve actually played against her back when we played in Super Club in 2017 and she gave me a real elbow to the nose! It took me to the floor… so I’m hoping I can bring the footage back just to tease her!
“I suppose that’s what I get being 5ft 7in and being a defender in the circle,” Jones added with a massive smile on her face.
“She’s a fierce competitor and will bring so many benefits to our shooting circle. Also, having her presence in training will raise all of our standards.
“When we step into an arena with her by our side, it’s that bit of extra fear that we can put to our opponents, with them knowing she’s in our corner.
“We’re so grateful that Cat’s bringing little baby Bash over and that she’s going to be part of our family.”
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