Plenty of people know that my Tactix’s teammates and I were at QEII during the February quake.
What they don’t know is what happened immediately after, or what it was like going back to playing netball in the weeks following.
We played our opening home game of the season the night before the February quake struck against the West Coast Fever. Lucky for them, they’d flown out of Christchurch about 20-30 minutes before the quake struck.
We, on the other hand, were in a room in the middle of QEII, our lunch boxes open, about to do a video review session of the night before.
Coach Helen Mahon-Stroud and Julie Seymour were standing at the front, and the rest of us were sitting facing the front, when all of a sudden, the room, which had no windows, went completely dark as the power went out. A rumble followed, that fight or flight reaction kicked in, and myself and about four of my team mates made a b-line for the door.
We didn’t get very far; the floor was shaking so much, and soon Marion Meates, our physio and I were holding onto each other, while lying on the floor.
As soon as the shaking slowed, we were evacuated out the back door.
I remember speaking to Greg Thompson, our trainer, who’d spent a fair bit of time in the military, asking him, ‘Thomo, we are close to the sea, is there going to be a tsunami?’
I’m sure he didn’t know the right answer, but when he said ‘no’, I immediately relaxed.
Once we’d been outside for a bit, we then proceeded around the front entrance area of QEII where about 100 kids were sitting there, in their togs and towels, draped in survival blankets.
As you can imagine the kids were awfully upset. So, here we were, Tactix players in full uniform, signing autographs and trying our best to calm these children down. We were giving out posters, signing t-shirts, and talking to them about their goal of one day being a Silver Fern.
It was a very surreal moment; especially given I couldn’t stop thinking of my own kids who were at school and being looked after by my mum at the time of the quake.
One of the girls went across the road to the BP station to use the toilet. When she came back, she said, ‘they’re giving away all their food out of the freezers as they have no power.’ So, the rest of us trundled across there and came back with arm loads of ice creams and ice blocks and we started giving them out to the kids. It was kind of like a carnival atmosphere. It was a really weird feeling.
My car was surrounded by liquefaction and wasn’t able to be moved. I didn’t get it back for about 3 weeks. I managed to car-pool home with a couple of the HPSNZ guys, Ian Ansell and Marty Croy who lived by me. It was a long slow journey back to St Albans, and as we started hearing stories of fatalities in the city, it became more and more sombre.
The Tactix organisation were amazing. They gave us a couple of weeks dispensation, or leave from netball, which was really needed, but also became really difficult as we all dispersed to little pockets around the country.
I went with my immediate family to Hawkes Bay, and so did Charlotte Kight and Marion Meates. Charlotte and I used to meet up at her old school, Woodford House, and train together, then fly to meet the rest of the team the night before each game.
I can still distinctly remember playing the 1st game back – we were playing Waikato in Rotorua and I honestly didn’t feel like I could suit up to go out for the game. I was thinking my home province had been through a state of emergency, there’s people who have lost friends and family, there’s parts of the city without power, we still haven’t got sewage back on yet and here we are, we have to play a bloody game of netball!
One of my teammates turned around and said ‘Anna, you just have to think, we are providing entertainment for those people’, and I was like, fair enough, I’ll do my job. But I still found it really, really difficult to keep on playing through that period. Obviously, that diminished with each week and game, but that 1st game was difficult.
My husband and I returned home to Christchurch after a few weeks, with our youngest child. We left our older two children in Wairoa with my father-in-law and sister-in-law. They stayed in Wairoa at school and kindergarten for the term, petrified to return home to Christchurch.
It wasn’t as hard as I thought returning home though. We were only away for 6 weeks or so, and with friends and family around us we were soon back into our same old routines, with just a few cones to dodge and streets that were blocked off.
Despite having a hankering for one day leaving Christchurch and exploring other parts of the world, Christchurch is my home. I’ve lived here all my life and once the Town Hall, Convention Centre, Metro Sports facility and the new stadium are up and running we’ll be lucky to call Christchurch home I reckon.
Aside from my ‘day job’ working for the Maia Health Foundation, trying to help raise money for a couple of projects in the Canterbury Health space, including the Helipad at the Hospital, I’ve started back with the Tactix this season too, this time as an apprentice coach. I know it sounds a bit corny, but given I started playing for them when they were called the Flames as a 17-year-old and I didn’t retire until I was 34 it really feels like home too. It’s an environment I know so much about and grew up in.
Marianne and Jules have built a wonderful team culture so it’s an inspirational and aspirational place to go each day, watching and encouraging these young athletes to flourish.