Rising netballer Parris Mason finds right chemistry in capital with Central Pulse

A triple-code New Zealand representative, Parris Mason is focusing on her blossoming netball career and an academic future, she tells Ashley Stanley.
Parris Mason has big plans to pay it forward.

Straight out of school, Mason moved to Wellington this year, to chase a starting spot in the champion Central Pulse netball side.

But the 18-year-old isn't just being schooled on the netball court - shes still learning from her old teachers at Manukura School in Palmerston North.

The New Zealand U21 defender - whos also represented her country in touch and basketball - is studying part-time at Victoria University towards a bachelor of science, majoring in chemistry with a minor in mathematics, in between her netball timetable.

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On paper, shes got the best of both worlds. Soaking up as much as she can from her Pulse team-mates - many of them Silver Ferns - in a professional sporting environment, and then turning to her support network at Manukura - a Mori school fostering academic and sporting excellence - for the study side of things.

One day Mason would like to give back - and become a teacher.

She's always enjoyed science. So why not be a chemistry teacher? she laughs. I've definitely had more of a science-y, math-y brain than an English brain. I just go back to my school teachers from last year; thats really big for me.

David Unwin/Stuff
Parris Mason signed for the Central Pulse from Year 13 at Manukura School in Palmerston North.

One of those influential teachers is Manukura's netball lead and health and physical education specialist, Renee Matoe. Shes played many roles in Masons life over the years - as her teacher, netball coach and boarding mum.

Our students never really leave us, says Matoe. I always send them messages asking How's everything going? Are you ok? Do you need anything?, she says. We always keep tabs on all our kids that leave this place to make sure that they don't feel like they're on their own.

Even though it's a big task, it's something that we still really want to be a part of. To make sure that theyre successful and theyre able to be leaders back in their own hap, iwi, and just be good role models for the next generation.

Matoe started building a relationship with Mason in Year 10, though she had kept an eye on her progress from an earlier age. Mason was originally at New Plymouth Girls High before moving to Manukura for her final years of secondary school.

Parris is very driven - a driven athlete and a driven student. She loves to excel, Matoe says. Shes well-liked by her peers, she gets along with anyone. She doesn't like to disappoint people. But most probably doesn't want to disappoint herself and her whnau.

Parris Mason (L) contest the ball in a club game.

It's these characteristics that Mason, the winning captain of the Aotearoa Mori team at the Pacific Nations Cup in 2019, will take into the Pulse side.

Mason has comfortably slotted into preseason training. As an apprentice training partner to the side last season, the environment is familiar. It's just a lot harder having to fight for an actual spot on the team now, says Mason. To get a starting game would be the ideal goal this year. And long term, playing for the Silver Ferns at a World Cup is the dream.

Named in the NZ U21 squad for the postponed Netball Youth World Cup this year in Fiji, Mason had been excited about working with Katrina Rore, but the Silver Ferns World Cup champion is now on maternity leave.

But theres still an opportunity for me to be mentored by her, Mason says. And Kelly Jury is also really helping me out down here. Its really cool to have the older girls who have had a lot of experience.

Mason is also flatting with Pulse teammates Aliyah Dunn and Abby Erwood, whos moved up from the Steel this season. Mason says the flat runs pretty smoothly because it's a lot easier to understand each others schedules and netball demands.

Were all feeling the same stuff, like when we're tired, says Mason. It's pretty good having people on the same schedule as you. We always have chats after training and match play about how it went for us and stuff like that.

Getting a contract with the Pulse was always a goal for Mason and her family. But we definitely did not expect it to come so early on. My parents were really proud of me for getting this opportunity, she says.

So was Matoe, excited and nervous for Mason when she heard she received a contract with the defending champions.

I was also really proud because shes worked hard to get to where she is, says Matoe. In saying that, I always say to her, It's just the beginning - it's never the end and so it's what you do from here on in that makes most of the difference in terms of who you are as a person and an athlete.

Ive seen lots of the ups and downs with her own personal life and school and in sport. So knowing where she has come from and what she was like as a person and as an athlete, hopefully weve made a difference in this environment at Manukura. Weve helped her gain a little bit more independence, a little bit more accountability, and knowing what's required in that next level of performance being a contracted pemain straight out of high school.

With opportunity comes unknown territory and testing times for the next steps in Masons career. But Matoe says Mason has the ability to always front and bounce back from obstacles.

Shes been very successful in all of her sport because she is a cross-code athlete, she says. Having lots of success is great. It's the ability to know what are the next steps for Parris moving into the next high performance environment. And if things don't go right or she doesn't get as much success as what she's had in the past, how does she deal with that?

I think that's the biggest thing she will learn from being in that environment but also she has enough resilience that she will be super determined to make sure that she is successful in whatever she does whether that be study or in the sporting arena.

Murray Wilson/Stuff
Two Manukura students Brody Manson (L) and Parris Mason were selected for the New Zealand secondary schools netball team in 2019.

The New Zealand secondary school netballer has also represented her country in touch and basketball at age-grade level, winning a silver medal at the 2019 FIBA U17 Oceania championships in New Caledonia. But she has always prioritised netball.

I guess I just had a bigger passion for it than the other sports, says Mason. I still love playing touch as much as I can in the off-season, but I dont really play basketball as much any more.

Netball was her first sport as a child as her mum was very netball driven, Mason says. She was coached by her mum through primary and the passion carried into high school.

Last year Mason was one of 12 athletes awarded a Tania Dalton Foundation scholarship, which supports young women in sport and their communities.

Its been a great programme to be a part of, says Mason. It hasnt just helped my family financially, it's also helped me with a lot of skills that athletes dont usually get the time to go over, like our mental health and mental skills, she says.

And knowing ourselves a bit more, and how we respond to stuff. So it's just little things that help us outside instead of just on court stuff and thats been really cool."

The advice she would give to those thinking about applying for the scholarship, is you never know what they could help with.

A lot of people just see money, but I think youve really got to understand the programme and how much it's going to help you," Mason says. "Its also a great opportunity to meet people outside of your own sport. I think it's really cool to know other sports and how they work other than just your own."

William Booth
New Zealand under-21s' Parris Mason (GD), pictured challenging a Silver Ferns attacker in the 2020 Cadbury Netball Series.

Each recipient receives a mentor as a part of the three-year programme. But Mason already had an existing one in Matoe so they've carried on working together. Both originally come from Taranaki.

Matoe says the Tania Dalton Foundation is a great opportunity for those athletes moving through transitional periods in their lives. I think its super beneficial for them, and it's a way for them to also step out of their comfort zone, she says. Because when you're in your sport every day, you get comfortable, and you only know what you know.

But getting that extension and that challenge, to be put into a group with people who don't know, and to go through that journey in that period of time is something really special.

I think anyone who gets that opportunity with the Tania Dalton Foundation is super lucky and is something that they'll look back at later on in their lives and go Wow, what an extraordinary thing to be a part of and be really grateful that they got that opportunity.


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