Rotorua's Erena Mikaere is fast learning that as a captain she can't always be everyone's best friend.
The Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic defender has had a tough start to her first season as the Bay of Plenty Gold netball captain. Heading into this week's finals of the Lion Foundation Netball Championships at Tauranga's TECT Arena, the Bay side have played four, lost four and face an uphill battle to avoid relegation.
But Mikaere, 24, knows how the side needs to improve and the role she has to play to make it happen.
"We have to play as a team. We've got a lot of great individual players but you can only do so much as individuals," she said. "That's where I want to come along and pull everyone together."
Taking on the captaincy has been a steep learning curve.
"I have learnt a lot, I had to stand up and speak. My physio said to me 'be heard'," she said. "After four losses it's hard to stay focused but as captain I have to so that everyone else feels they have to. My coach has been good - she said if I do my own job that's a kind of leadership."
And a chat with last year's captain Jodi Todd helped Mikaere realise she couldn't always be the 'nice guy'.
"She told me sometimes they [the team] just need a rark up and they are still my friends afterward."
Mikaere said the side were feeling positive ahead of their first match against Otago at 5.45pm tomorrow.
"The team is looking a lot better than what we have been," she said. "There's been a change of expectations, we had our team meeting and said this is what's required from here on in because we don't want to go second division."
She said remaining in the top tier would come down to self-belief and belief in the team.
"When we went into the Wellington game [last weekend] it was a rocky road but after trainings and this weekend off ...we will go in Tuesday night, have a training and bring the intensity back up ready for the rest of the week. I think the girls will be ready."
Mikaere, part of the Waiariki Sports Institute, is kept busy juggling her teaching studies and placements, netball commitments and motherhood.
"I squeeze it into little bits but it just feels like I never rest, but oh well," she said.
There's no rest in sight - when the championships end on Friday she'll go straight into offseason training with the goal of retaining her spot in the Magic squad for a third consecutive year.
"It was amazing to be part of the Magic. Everyone recognises you were a part of it, you don't feel you weren't because you weren't on the court," she said.
"I learnt heaps, with Casey Williams and Leana [de Bruin] down my end and Laura [Langman] and Irene [van Dyk] to play against - you can't not learn."
Despite warming the bench for most of the ANZ Championships this Rotorua girl has no immediate plans to look outside the franchise.
"People have asked me that and I say I can't even leave the Whaka clubrooms, how am I going to leave the Bay?" she said with a laugh. "My goal is to stay in the Magic, if that goes through I will be here [at the gym] all day every day of the summer."
Play starts at the TECT Arena at 9am tomorrow, with finals and promotion/relegation matches on Friday.
Bay of Plenty Gold team: Rachel Beale, Candyce Edwards, Kendra Falefitu, Kate Henwood, Simmon Howe, Halana Leith, Mikaere (c), Harley Smith, Tessa Tiwha-Smith, Sulu Tone-Patrick, Arahi Wall, Lynaire Williams. Coach: Mary-Jane Araroa.