10 Oct 2019

Netball: Back to the future for Yvonne Willering

11:37 am on 10 October 2019

It's been 18 years since Yvonne Willering received any Silver Ferns gear, and while some of the fashions may have changed, other things have stood the test of time.

Silver Ferns coach Yvonne Willering watches on during 2000.

Silver Ferns coach Yvonne Willering watches on during 2000. Photo: Photosport

Willering last held the Silver Ferns coaching job in 2001 - since then three New Zealand coaches have come and gone.

Noeline Taurua, the 11th Silver Ferns coach, has enlisted the help of Willering, Ferns coach number seven.

It's a mark of the esteem that she's held in that after all these years she's still seen as a defensive guru.

Taurua, who is always searching for any small advantage, is hoping Willering's expertise in the zone will give them a point of difference during the Constellation Cup series against Australia.

"Yvonne I always class as the Jedi of the New Zealand zone. And over here in Australia, they play pure man on man so I know what she's going to bring to improve our defensive end," said Taurua.

Willering is happy the zone hasn't lost its relevance over the years.

"We've often spoken about going back to the New Zealand way on defence ...that's what we used to be known for and we deviated from that and went to one on one defence," said Willering.

"She's [Noeline Taurua] indicated that she'd like to go back to the New Zealand style and a lot of coaches within New Zealand totally agree with that so it's pretty cool to now be involved in that capacity and bring all these things back and also obviously want to add something new to it as well."

The former New Zealand defender was used as a specialist coach during the build-up to July's Netball World Cup, but with assistant coach Deb Fuller unavailable for this series, Willering will be closer to the action.

Australian Jane Woodlands-Thompson, the other specialist coach for the series, will sit on the official team bench.

Willering will be on the secondary bench with other support personnel.

Maria Folau holds the World Championship Trophy as the team celebrate winning the Netball World Cup with a 52-51 victory over Australia in the final.

Maria Folau holds the World Championship Trophy as the team celebrate winning the Netball World Cup with a 52-51 victory over Australia in the final. Photo: Photosport

The last time Willering was courtside at the international level was back in 2003 when she coached Fiji.

She said it was interesting receiving some kit for the series.

"It's been a while ...suddenly looking at the New Zealand gear and I'm going 'wow, I haven't worn that for a long long time'. It's in a totally different capacity, working in the background, certainly looking forward to it, working with Noeline and providing any support I can give her."

She said the uniforms had certainly evolved over the years.

"There's a lot of sponsored gear now and you have to be true to your sponsor and I understand that and that's why I obviously will be wearing some of the gear."

Yvonne Willering talks to her team during a Silver Ferns v Australia game in 1997.

Yvonne Willering talks to her team during a Silver Ferns v Australia game in 1997. Photo: Photosport

There won't be too many elite netballers in New Zealand today who haven't had some kind of contact with the 69-year-old.

In recent years Willering has worked primarily as an independent contract coach and mentored other coaches.

She's noticed coaching practices have changed over the years, although she considers Taurua to be quite old-school.

"What I mean by that is she gives the players power but first of all they have to get the knowledge and she provides that and then she empowers them to take it out onto the court.

"They do a lot more one on one with players now. A lot of sport science involved as well, far more certainly than in our day. It's quite neat just to now have a little bit more hands on ...it's really neat when coaches can counter moves against one another."

Silver Ferns need to consolidate

Winning back to back games against Australia has proved to be a huge obstacle for the Silver Ferns.

It's been four years since New Zealand won two games in a row against the Diamonds; that was during the Constellation Cup in 2015.

But Willering said the Ferns now had the perfect opportunity to end that drought.

"It's no longer a situation you know 'how many are we going to lose by?' It's now going to be very closely contested. The opportunity is there, it's now up to the Ferns to

consolidate ...it's that consistency factor that has to come into the game and that's something that Noeline Taurua is demanding anyway."

Willering said the Silver Ferns needed to take another step up against a wounded Australian team.

"They will come out hard and strong in this series, they've lost the World Championships, obviously the Silver Ferns have bragging rights for that.

"But they [Australia] will see this as a new challenge and they would feel that they didn't give their best performance at the Worlds ...a wounded Australian comes back fighting, we all know that."

Willering believes some of the New Zealand public lost a bit of interest in the Ferns and there is still some ground to get back there.

"That has obviously been restored because we are now the title holders but I think now it's an opportunity to build our sport a little bit more so and bring the public back courtside because I think we've lost some of our audience and this is an opportunity to bring them back."

The first game of the four Test series starts at 4pm on Sunday.