DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL
I come from a village in Trinidad and Tobago called Toco. Living in the countryside was super cool. You don’t have the access to facilities and gyms, but you do have access to mango trees and other fruit trees and beaches.
I would muck about with my brothers and my cousins, playing games in the bush into the late hours of the night. My mother wasn’t having it at all. But being daddy’s little girl I could always do what I wanted.
It was two hours to Port of Spain to go and train, but when my mum and my dad separated I stayed with my mum in a place called Sangre Grande, which was closer, so it much easier to get to training and there was greater exposure too. No one goes to the country to find players. You had to go to the city to be recognised.
The next day I got a message from my brother: ‘Daddy isn’t speaking. He’s not moving.’ I didn’t know what to think after that.
I made my first appearance in Trinidad’s national team when I was 14. I was shocked. I really don’t know how it happened. I do know I was full of sass and attitude at that age – I’m not gonna lie!
But with all the attitude that I had, I also had something to back it up – that was my talent and my shooting.
We have a lot of great sportswomen in Trinidad and Tobago, but they don’t get the same level of recognition as the guys like Brian Lara and Ato Bolden.
Cricket, football, track and field are definitely the go-to sports, but not netball. I competed in track and field, volleyball, basketball and netball at national level. I represented my country in four different sports but I don’t think people really know much about me at home. I am more recognised in Australia.
The 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney was a dream come true. That’s when coach Rob Wright and coach Anita Keelan saw my talent and they messaged me on Facebook.
At the time, I honestly didn’t think I was ready to play at a professional level. I was 21, I didn’t think I had the strength at that time to be so far away from my family.
At the same time, I also had an offer to play in England with the Hertfordshire Mavericks and that’s where I went. I was awarded ‘Fans Player of the Year, the club Coaches’ Award and the League MVP.
At the Mavericks’ end-of-season dinner I announced in my award speech, ‘Well, I think this is my last year with y’all, I’m going to Australia‘.
Everyone laughed at me – not in a bad way though. They thought I was joking. Then my manager contacted coach Rob and a spot was still available. He was still interested in me and so I made the move.
I COULDN’T FEEL MY LEGS
It was such a culture shock when I got here. Oh my. The eating habits, the environment. It was crazy! The training was so much more intense, I could have died!
My first training session, I wanted to give up. I called my mum and my boyfriend and told them, ‘I’m ready to come home’. After one session!
The training was so intense compared to back home and I was like, ‘WOW’. I couldn’t feel my legs, I wanted to throw up. It was the devil itself! There were all these extra one percenters you had to do as an athlete. I just had no idea.
Coming into the environment, to be honest, a lot was going through my head. ‘I’m the only black one on this team. Are they racist? Will I like it here?’
But it was the total opposite. The love we have for each other, it’s remarkable, it’s ridiculous.
I went to my housemates, just to talk about it because I was dying inside. I am so glad that I was not alone. My teammates are my housemates and they are my sisters.
I share a house with Helen and Nat. It’s not like the household with Maddy Proud, Maddy Turner, Sophie Garbin and Kate Eddy. That household is more crazy than ours. Trust me! It is High School Musical over there. Compared to us they have a loud house.
We’re very quiet. We have our time to watch TV together but we are always in our rooms, chillin’, vibin’. We don’t really be noisy but no Caribbean person can say that they don’t like twerkin’ or dancin’. No one! It’s our tradition, so, definitely, I love to dance.
I twerk in the change rooms before a game. It’s not something I have to do every game like a ritual but just something that happens in the moment.
When someone asks me about the difference between Australia and Trinidad, I say, ‘Australians dance with their hands and Trinidadians dance with the waist’. We use our bottoms more, our behinds, and the music is very different.
The girls love me when I am like that. They feed off my energy. If I’m quiet, they think I’m sad. They love it when I’m vibrant and having a good time, they love that Samantha.
I lead the team in prayer before we play. I’m not religious, I always tell people that. I just believe in prayer before you go to sleep and prayer in the morning.
I don’t always do it. It’s something we all do back in Trinidad and Tobago in the national team; we pray before we train and pray before we leave to go home, so that’s just something I wanted to share as a piece of me, to leave behind as my legacy here.
The Swifts girls actually love it now. Sometimes I forget and they’re like, ‘Sam, the prayer, the prayer’, and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, cool’. Sometimes I ask them can we do the Lord’s Prayer and they are like, ‘No, Sam, we love when you do a different one every tim’. It’s short and sweet and from the heart.
We are a very happy team and I think you can see that on the court. We are not forced to love each other, we just do. It’s all natural.
But, look, I can’t get rid of Helen Housby. She’s my partner in the goal circle, my housemate – we’ve been here three years now – and she almost has the same birthday as me. I just can’t get away from her!
I love Helen. She is very chill. We understand each other, what we like and what we don’t like. The first year we didn’t really understand each other that much, but I must say, this year, we do and I think that helps us on the court.
Australia is my second home now. I’m comfortable and happy. The people around me have welcomed me with open arms and that’s why I’m still at the Swifts. I had offers to go to other places but I just feel it’s more like a family than just a team.
I used to feel lonely. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m the only Trini’ but now there are quite a few Jamaicans playing here, Shamera Stirling has come over to Adelaide this year, we are good friends and I admire her so much.
We message a lot on WhatsApp, talking stupidness. After her first training session, she wanted to go home as well – as much as me after my first training session.
I told her ‘Sham, they’re training hard. Welcome to SSN’. I stuck it out and so can she.
As hard as it is, I am grateful for this chapter in my life. My dad is still my first thought of the day and the last thought in my night but, having my Swifts family, my friends and all the support of the fans I can honestly say that I am where I need to be, for him and for me.