Press Release – Haier Pulse
Although she has already played five full seasons for the Haier Pulse, mid-courter Mille Lees is as enthusiastic as a rookie as she prepares for the 2014 ANZ Championship. She has high hopes for the campaign, which begins on Monday with the season opener against the Adelaide Thunderbirds at Te Rauparaha Arena, the home of the Haier Pulse.
Despite being only 24, Millie has notched up an impressive total of 65 games for the Haier Pulse and 11 caps for the Silver Ferns. It’s no surprise then that Pulse fans view her as one of the more experienced players in the team.
“This is my sixth year and I’m one of the longest standing,” laughs the bubbly mid-courter who debuted for the Pulse in 2009. “It’s nice to be considered one of the more experienced players, but equally this year is going to be quite exceptional I think. We’ve got a great mix of youth and experience.”
Millie is referring to the Pulse’s impressive line-up of international players which includes Ama Agbeze, Donna Wilkins, Irene van Dyk, Joline Henry, Katarina Cooper, captain Katrina Grant, Liana Leota, Paula Griffin and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit. New recruits are Gemma Hazeldine and Elias Shadrock, who join the returning Claire Kersten in the squad.
She has absolute belief that coach Robyn Broughton is the right person to bring the players together this season and fulfil a long-held goal.
“It’s the third time Robbie has guided us and she has big expectations to take us to the top four. Having Donna and Irene in the team I think boosts us significantly and I also share Robbie’s belief that we can meet her high expectations.”
Millie has had to be extra focused over the summer after suffering a stress fracture in her foot during a national training camp in September. Confined to a moon boot for six weeks, she is the first to admit she spent her fair share of time “shuffling round” and was unable to take part in the Haier Pulse’s two pre-season camps.
“I had lots of rehabilitation and recovery and since my moon boot came off, have been very slowly building up my strength and fitness to be ready for the season. It was frustrating at the time. There were days I was just sitting on the couch thinking how much I’d love to go for a run and couldn’t.”
But the rehabilitation paid off and Millie was named as wing attack in the Silver Ferns starting line-up during January’s test series against England and is confident her form will improve over the season.
“I’ll be focused on finding space and passing the ball to Irene and Donna at the perfect speed. I need to make sure my attacking is crisp and accurate and that our combinations flow together.
“It’s a privilege to play with Donna and Irene … they’re far more experienced, but they set the standard high and that trickles down through the team.”
When Millie isn’t out on court, she is busy walking the wards of Hutt Hospital’s Cardiology Unit. The qualified doctor is working as a house surgeon and over the years has become a master of time management.
“It’s been years of practise … I just have to manage my time well and be super organised,” she admits. “I get up early to train, I go to work, then in the evenings it’s more training. I am actually very lucky that both work and the Haier Pulse are understanding and allow me to do the two things I love.”
Despite the hectic schedule and lots of to-ing and fro-ing across Wellington, Millie says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think netball and medicine complement each other. It puts things in perspective as well. For example, when you’re getting nervous on court or if you’re having a bad day you often think ‘well it is a game’ and there are worse things that can happen.”
Millie grew up on a farm in the small rural community of Pukekawa in the Waikato. After completing high school in Auckland, she went onto medical school all the while rising through netball’s age-group ranks. Named in the NZ U21 team in 2007, Millie was also in the national team that finished second at the 2009 World Youth Championships in the Cook Islands. She was selected for the Silver Ferns in 2009, but made her on-court debut for the national side in England at the start of 2011. She is one of many Haier Pulse players looking to gain selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in July-August.
When Millie finds time for herself, she enjoys summers in the Coromandel with her family and winters up the mountain skiing with friends. She is also the official San Remo Netball Brand Ambassador in New Zealand.
“I feel like Wellington is home now… I’ve been here for almost five years. I love how it’s compact, has a great culture and there are always things on.”