18 Mar 2019

Noeline Taurua's bold move toward gender-neutral netball

6:52 pm on 18 March 2019

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua has smashed through international netball's glass ceiling in a bid to grow the sport she loves.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

With no Taini Jamison trophy series before the Netball World Cup this year, Silver Ferns head coach Noeline Taurua had to get creative.

International teams have organised direct routes to Liverpool for July's event meaning no touring countries to challenge the Ferns, so Taurua summoned the toughest competition from her own backyard - the New Zealand men's netball team.

The Silver Ferns will for the first time ever play in a televised match against a men's invitational team in June, and Taurua believes this is the best possible challenge ahead of the pinnacle event.

"They've always been there and it's about getting the quality competition at the highest level that we possibly can going into worlds," says Taurua

"I think it should be a priority not only with the Silver Ferns but with Netball New Zealand and I'm speaking this purely for myself, it's about raising the profile of our sport."

"Hopefully if we get far we will play Jamaica and Malawi who are very aerial, so we need to train against such teams and the men will bring that component."

In November last year, RNZ Sport first reported that the International Netball Federation refuse to include men's netball on its international calendar, a stance that is up for review before the world cup.

  • Men's netball rejected by governing body
  • Netball New Zealand has managed to weave around the governing body's position by calling the event a 'home series', rather than an international, with no world ranking points on offer.

    But that's not what Taurua and her side are playing for.

    Taurua, who has competed and trained alongside men during her playing career, believes to grow the sport worldwide it needs to target everyone - women and men as players and as an audience.

    In her time as the assistant coach of the Northern Mystics Taurua regularly utilised male teams to compete against her side and knows first-hand the quality of men's netball in New Zealand.

    "They're fast and furious, physically they are stronger than the females and have the ability of elevation and explosiveness, but also the competitiveness on the ball," says Taurua

    "Our men's team is quite flamboyant that brings a different dimension to what people are used to in our normal game and that sets us up nicely."

    New Zealand defending Australia during 2018 trans-Tasman Cup

    New Zealand defending Australia during 2018 trans-Tasman Cup Photo: Clusterpix Photography

    While the netball match in a clear sign of change, for New Zealand Men's and Mixed Netball president David Palaamo it's the result of years of hard work that Palaamo believes Netball NZ is recognising.

    "Men are very much in the background of women's netball already, there are lots of men coaching and managing," says Palaamo

    "This opens up the window that men can play netball, we are here to play a serious sport - that's for me personally and our association."

    "We are getting the recognition that some of these players deserve and puts a value on what we are trying to do."

    The monumental match is an opportunity to showcase men's netball on the world stage but Palaamo is under no illusion that this match is to help equip the Silver Ferns for a world cup tournament.

    "We have a good working relationship with Netball New Zealand and want to present a good picture for men's netball but also present a good training format leading into the world cup," says Palaamo

    "Ideally this is for them and we really want to see the success of the Silver Ferns and hopefully this is our little way doing it," says Palaamo

    The New Zealand men's invitational side will be announced in the next 24 hours.

    The Silver Ferns will play the men's invitational team in June, as well as the Fiji Pearls and an All Stars team that Taurua will announce after the official Ferns team bound for Liverpool in July is selected.

    - RNZ