Northern Kāhu forward Ashleigh Kelman-Poto will not be returning to the court at this weekend’s Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa Final Four due to pregnancy.
Kelman-Poto played eight games for the Kāhu during the inaugural Tauihi season, with a season high 13 points and 6 rebounds against the Southern Hoiho in July.
Upon hearing the news, the Tall Ferns trialist was adamant she would play for as long as her body would allow her to. However, she also knew when the time had come to stop.
“I told the team at the end of one of our training sessions. Initially I thought I had let everyone down, but they were excited for me and they couldn’t believe I was still playing.
“Playing through pregnancy was tough both mentally and physically. I’ve learnt a whole lot from it and I hope to come out for the better next year.
“Just the feeling of your brain still working fine but your body shutting down and preparing for a small human is a big change,” she conceded.
She also admits that she is not the best sideline supporter in the world.
“It’s been so hard and frustrating watching but i think it’s made me a better player in others ways with leadership and talking to the girls, I understand the game a little bit more but it’s somewhere I don’t want to be again!
“I think we will do great in the finals and I will be there 100% with the team no matter the result. I believe these girls can take it all the way!“
It will be child number two for Kelman-Poto who already has a five year-old son Jai.
“We are very happy for Ashleigh and Meka and send our best wishes to them both and their wider family,” Northern Kāhu General Manager Matt Lacey said.
Pregnancy and motherhood is an area the Kāhu have paid extra attention to.
“From the outset, our ownership group have been clear around the support we want to provide mothers in their transition in and out of playing. It is important they have the opportunity to continue to play at the highest level. We have three mother’s on our roster and the balance of their experience and perspectives. with the youth of the group, has been a hugely beneficial to our playing roster as we navigate our first season.”
The 30 year old is determined to pursue a return to play programme once baby number two arrives.
“There is absolutely no doubt that I will be working hard for a spot on the team next year - just because I’m pregnant now, that’s not going to stop what I’m trying to achieve and do. If anything I’m more motivated to work harder to be better for next year.” Kelman-Poto’s will be looking to recapture the same form that delivered her a 2020 NBL Grand-Final MVP award and a Tall Fern trial the same year.
“I still have the desire to make the Tall Ferns and to just be a great, hardworking role model for my kids and family” Until then she has one more weekend of supporting her teammates on the sideline as the Northern Kāhu look to convert their Regular Season title into the 2022 Tauihi Championship.
Whatever the outcome Tauihi will be back in 2023 and so will Ash K-P.
“This first season has been an amazing experience both playing and watching it. Tauihi is such a big step for women’s basketball and I hope it’s even better next year!