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Zara Flett

Image: Clive Jones

Zara Flett is more than used to long journeys in her netball career, but her route to the Super League has been anything but.

The 20-year-old is one of the league’s newest faces and admits her inclusion in Strathclyde Sirens’ squad of 12 for this season came as a surprise.

But the Orkney native is intent on grasping the opportunity with both hands, and is more than prepared to put in the hard yards to earn her shot, even if it sometimes comes in the form of a six-hour ferry home.

“It’s just exciting,” she said. “I didn’t imagine that this year I would even be in a Super League team so I am just taking it all in my stride, just taking each week as it comes.

“I competed in the Fast5 competition for Sirens in June and then there were talks about being a training partner for Sirens.

“In August, I got a phone call from [head coach] Lesley [MacDonald] and she was speaking about being in the 12 and I was just really shocked. It is a really good opportunity but I just wasn’t expecting it.

“It’s a big step up from what I have been used to. Pre-season was tough but definitely a good challenge.

“My travel is a bit tricky because I still go home to Orkney every second weekend. I am still half at home, half in Glasgow.

“The flight takes about an hour so it is not too bad. I have taken the ferry a few times which if I get it from Aberdeen it can be about six hours but I don’t do that very often.”

Flett may have perhaps the longest commute of any Super League player when it comes to distance, with over 300 miles separating the archipelago off the north coast of Scotland and the country’s largest city.

But her decision to keep her roots at home is reflective of the large role island life has played in shaping the netballer she is today.

Netball is one of the most popular sports in Orkney, with Leeds Rhinos’ Sarah MacPhail also a native, and Flett believes it helps bring a distinctive style to the Super League, as well as a high tolerance for travel.

She added: “Throughout my juniors and seniors in Orkney, we have always had to travel to competitions. Through the Scotland set-up, I have had to travel away to training so I am just used to it. I am only five minutes away from the airport in Orkney.

“It was definitely daunting coming into the Scotland set-up but they always say people from the island have something a bit different, when they’re playing netball you can recognise a style of play.

“We get a lot of support at home because it’s quite a big achievement for such a small island having two players in the Super League this season.”

Orkney celebrations

Flett (back left) as part of the Orkney team

A first involvement in the Scotland pathway came aged just 15 with a call-up to the Under-17 team, where she competed at Netball Europe before quickly rising up the ranks.

She has been joined along the way by fellow Sirens hot shot Cerys Finn, who is also in her debut Super League season, and the pair are helping each other out along the way.

“I am still quite young so it is all about learning,” she said. “It is just about getting exposure and there is only so much you can do in a week, so it is just about focusing on what I’ve been told, take on little bits at a time.

“It’s really nice because I have grown up in the pathway with Cerys so it is nice to have somebody else that is at the same level as me, it’s her first season as well. Pre-season was tough but we just pulled each other through it.”

Zara Flett riding a horse

A Super League debut against Stars in February was another milestone on Flett’s journey, though the 20-year-old admits she is not one to commit to any long-term visions or plans.

For now, it is simply a case of finding a balance between a new life in the city and home life on the island, where her summer plans include a potential return to eventing on her horse, Earl.

“It’s like living two different lives,” she said. “It’s such a city life right in the middle of Glasgow whereas at home it’s the complete other, so country.

“It’s quite nice having the balance. I have always got on my mind that I will be going home in a couple of weeks if I need a chill and then get back into city life.”

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