23 Aug 2018

Netball NZ let Maria Folau play in Australia

11:10 am on 23 August 2018

Star shooter Maria Folau can play netball in Australia next year and still be eligible for the Silver Ferns with Netball New Zealand giving her a 12-month exemption.

Maria Folau.

Maria Folau. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 31-year-old has been residing in Sydney since marrying Wallabies fullback Israel Folau last year, but travelled back to Auckland regularly to play for the Mystics.

But the Northern Mystics announced today that Folau has quit the Northern Mystics to live full-time in Australia.

The rules require players to be signed to a New Zealand franchise to be eligible for the Silver Ferns.

It's the same rule that prevented Silver Ferns midcourter Laura Langman from playing for the Ferns last year, as she was playing for the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the Australian league.

But despite no longer be contracted to a New Zealand Premiership team, Netball New Zealand has granted Folau a 12-month exemption so she'll still be available for next year's World Cup.

NNZ Board Chair Allison Ferguson said Folau's long and dedicated career as a Silver Fern, her personal circumstances, and her loyalty to the game here led to the exemption being granted.

"She has shown an unquestionable loyalty to Netball in New Zealand including both the Silver Ferns and SKYCITY Mystics," Ferguson said.

"It has been a tough season for Maria this year, now that she and her family live in Australia, travelling between the two countries to continue playing the game she has dedicated much of her life to.

"Maria's experience is really important to this young Silver Ferns squad moving forward. The NNZ Board believed granting her a 12-month exemption to be eligible for the Silver Ferns despite not being contracted to a NZ ANZ Premiership team would enable Maria to continue representing her country and mentor those new Silver Fern players coming through."

Langman was named in last week's Silver Ferns squad courtesy of the Netball NZ Board granting her an exemption after she hadn't played ANZ Premiership netball this year.

Folau is part of the Silver Ferns squad to play the Australian Diamonds, South Africa's Proteas and England's Roses in next month's Netball Quad Series, starting on 15 September in Auckland.

Folau, 31, has played 128 times for New Zealand since debuting in 2005.

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau pleading with mid-courters

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau pleading with mid-courters Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Folau has played for the Mystics since 2010 and has reflected on her time with the team.

"This has been one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make, I consider the Northern Mystics my netball family and this club will always hold a special place in my heart, but I feel the time is right for me to make a full time move to my new home in Sydney. My life and my family are now based outside of New Zealand, so my support networks have also shifted across the Tasman".

Mystics Head Coach Helene Wilson had nothing but praise for Folau, saying she had made a huge impact within the Northern Mystics environment.

"I have enjoyed watching Maria's netball journey over the years - growing into one of NZ's most iconic GA's. I am humbled to have worked with such a highly respected and influential person not only in the netball community but for all young woman in New Zealand.

"The passion and dedication she has brought to our team is special and she has been a pleasure to coach. We will miss her in our team, but she will always be a part of the Northern Mystics family and we wish her all the very best with her new in life Australia."