A long-standing love of football has lured Tiana Williams back onto the playing fields of Marlborough and Nelson this year.
The 20-year-old midfielder has been a stand-out for the Blenheim Valley Bullets side, who contest the Nelson division one women’s competition.
Given her impressive footballing CV, that comes as no surprise.
In 2014, the Marlborough Girls’ College student gained national recognition as part of the New Zealand under-16 side which toured Australia.
Two years later, the 16-year-old was named as the inaugural captain of the Tasman United women’s team which contested the Mainland Premier League, an appointment that recognised her playing maturity despite her tender years.
A demanding travel schedule for Nelson-based training prompted a move to Waimea College for the 2017 season, when Tiana again represented Tasman United.
Along the way she caught the eye of the selectors for the Canterbury United Pride team, who competed in the national Women’s League, training with a side which included several national reps.
As she moved through the ranks one goal remained firmly in Tiana’s sights, a place in the New Zealand under-18 team.
But when the side was announced, her name was missing.
“I trialled for [the NZ side], didn’t make it and so I thought I would move home and find a job and I’ve been here ever since.”
Deeply disappointed to be overlooked, Tiana decided to take a break from the sport she had played “for as long as I can remember”.
She took a job with a company called C3, loading log ships at Shakespeare Bay, and has been there for the past few years, her football boots tucked away in the cupboard until earlier this year when an opportunity to play for the Bullets arose.
“I enjoy my job, but I had been missing playing the game I love,” said Tiana, “and it’s also great to be playing without pressure.
“It is still a competitive game, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the top level where everyone is watching what you are doing all the time.”
“I have really enjoyed this year, they are a great bunch of girls, some a lot younger than me, which makes a change.”
Now she is back and relishing the opportunity to lace up her boots each weekend, Tiana has not ruled out another shot at higher honours. She hopes the Tasman United women’s side will be resurrected, offering a chance to take her silky skills to another level again.
“If they had a Tasman team this year, I would have looked to play in it,” she suggested.
Asked how her body had handled a return to regular football, Tiana was pleasantly surprised. “It has been fine … I am still a bit unfit, but I have kept active, so it wasn’t too hard.”
She has also found her skills have remained. “I think that is something you carry with you … your touch is always there I reckon.”
Given her form this season, including an eight-goal haul in a recent match, few would argue with that.