Just moments after her partner proposed, Casey Williams knew exactly what she had to do. The captain of the Silver Ferns started gathering some very special women together for her big day.
When Casey's partner, lawyer Terry Kopua, asked for her hand in marriage in Fiji last December, she immediately knew exactly who her support team of six bridesmaids would be.
"They are all really special to me," explains the star defender, who contacted many of her leading ladies just moments after Terry popped the question.
Today, those women are with the bride-to-be for New Idea's exclusive photoshoot, and there is plenty of laughter, reminiscing, high jinks and, of course, love.
"We actually haven't been together like this before," Casey says, looking around at this group of women she adores – women who'll stand beside her whenshe and Terry tie the knot.
"I've got their bridesmaid dresses and their shoes – but they can pick how they want their hair and jewellery. I want them to keep their uniqueness as they're all very special and individual."
The special six happily reveal to New Idea the Casey Williams they know – the tomboy, mother hen and all-round goodtime girl.
Netball has defined Casey's life and it's through the game she has forged her strongest friendships. Jessica Tuki (a former Silver Fern) and Arahi Wall have known Casey since she was a teen and played with her in the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
They, alongside Silver Ferns Katrina Grant and Joline Henry, who is pregnant, are four of the six who will stand by their friend's side when she weds Terry.
Casey’s older sister Jan-Marie and younger sister Lynaire form the rest of the bridal party.
It's Jessica Casey credits for bringing out her feminine side, and she likens Arahi, her friend of 11 years, to a sister.
Joline, who Casey met a decade ago, has been living with her friend since July, when Joline and her partner, Leif, left Wellington shortly after they discovered they were expecting their first child.
"I was quite intimidated by Jols when I first met her," Casey, 27, says. "I was like, 'God that's Joline Henry!' She's someone who'll fight for you, stand up for you."
Casey, who'd love to have a family of four, has been Joline's constant support throughout her pregnancy and will attend the birth.
"I'm going to antenatal classes with her so, when I do have a baby, I'll be ready for it – as Jols has prepared me!"
Katrina, or 'Poley' as Casey calls her, is her best buddy at Silver Ferns' camp. The top defensive pairing knows how to work hard but play hard too.
"When I first made the team, I was her roommate." From that day forward we were great mates.
With their olive skin and brown hair, Casey says, it's hard to pick Jan-Marie, 34, and maid of honour, Lynaire, 23, as her sisters.
"They're probably going to say I'm the golden child," says the down-to-earth star who grew up on a Matamata farm where her parents Murray and Joanne remain.
Casey describes her younger sister Lynaire as her best friend.
"She knows me the best. We always text and call each other."
Casey has developed a stronger bond with her older sister since Jan-Marie returned from living overseas.
"She's loud, she doesn't care what anybody else thinks," Casey says.
"Both of them [her sisters] will do anything for me."
MEET THE BRIDESMAIDS
The special six women who will stand beside Casey on her big day.
Joline Henry will be just weeks from giving birth to her son the day of Casey's wedding. The Silver Ferns defender says the pair has joked about "rolling her down the aisle" but adds that Casey is serious about halting proceedings and joining her in hospital if she goes into labour.
"I am quite horrified about it [that idea]," says Joline, 30. "I did tell her I can still be very involved and not be part of the bridal party. But she wouldn’t have it any other way and I was very humbled."
Joline has warned Terry to treat her dear friend carefully.
"I told him, 'I don't care Bro if I get on with you or not, as long as you make her happy,' which he definitely has," Joline says.
It was their tomboy natures that instantly connected Arahi Wall to Casey when they were teens playing netball for Bay of Plenty.
"We used to talk about our backgrounds; how I used to go pig hunting and she used to milk the cows. We were both real tomboys."
It was Arahi, 27, who Casey called moments after Terry placed a diamond on her finger, and asked to be her bridesmaid.
"I ran outside and screamed at the top of my lungs," the Mt Maunganui-based netballer says.
"Terry's awesome for her."
It would've been rare to see Casey Williams in a dress before she met close friend, netballer Jessica Tuki.
"She was just cruisy, a shorts, T-shirt, jeans and hoodie kind of girl," says Jess, who met Casey in the New Zealand Under 21 team in 2003. When Jess moved in with Casey in 2008, the self-confessed "girly girl" was determined to bring out her flatmate's feminine side.
"She started wearing dresses," Jessica, 25, says.
"Now if she's out in town and sees something that you like, she'll get it and come home and surprise you."
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu has nicknamed them Punch and Judy, an inseparable pair both on and off-court.
"We play defence together and if you're in the circle you need to what each other is doing and know what the other one is up to without even talking," Katrina says.
The defenders first met 10 years ago in the New Zealand Under 21 team, and together have experienced their greatest career highs and lows – winning the 2010 Commonwealth Games, then losing the World Champs. Katrina can't wait to see her best mate looking her finest on her wedding day.
"That day is about her, we're there to make sure she has the best day of her life," she says.
Auckland primary school teacher Jan-Marie says it's a typical for those who don't know her to do a double take when she tells them she's Casey Williams' sister.
"People ask us if we have the same parents as we look so different. I look like my mum and Casey looks very much like my dad. Lynaire is more of a hybrid."
Casey's height (1.88m) has been an advantage, but perhaps it's also her childhood days playing with Jan-Marie and her older brother Rhys, 32, that gave her the competitive edge. And although Jan-Marie is the oldest, it's Casey she describes as a "mother hen", someone renowned for making sure everyone feels comfortable.
Once fierce rivals, youngest sister, Lynaire, and Casey are now inseparable. Their childhood was filled with the typical sibling rivalries and happy shenanigans on their family farm.
"We used to practise as if we were The Spice Girls standing on these big hay bales, pretending we were singing to a crowd," the PE teacher recalls.
But, as they reached high school years and both became passionate about netball, Lynaire admits it was difficult for her.
"It has been hard having a Silver Fern as a sister, and me trying to play netball," says Lynaire, who is in the Bay of Plenty provincial team.
"When I was younger I envied her and was a little bit jealous. Now I've accepted that I'm not going to be that. She's simply phenomenal."