10 Oct 2021

Dame Noeline stares down next pinnacle event in charge

1:33 pm on 10 October 2021

It's been a long time since the Silver Ferns held the World Cup and Commonwealth Games titles at the same time.

Dame Noeline Taurua Coach of the Silver Ferns and Debbie Fuller  Assistant Coach of the Silver Ferns


There was a brief period in 2006/07. The Ferns had won the Netball World Cup in Jamaica in 2003 and three years later won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Melbourne in 2006.

But the Australian Diamonds put an end to that when they won the World Cup in Auckland in 2007.

The epic double extra-time win at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 was the last time the Ferns won gold at that pinnacle event. Katrina Rore is the only player in the current Silver Ferns' mix left from that campaign.

Silver Ferns' coach Dame Noeline Taurua knows only too well next year's Birmingham Commonwealth Games is a unique opportunity to achieve something very rare.

"Even when we won the World Cup in 2019 that was something like 16 years in the making as well, which is definitely a long time between drinks," Taurua said.

"Pretty much my job is based on the KPIs (key performance indicators) of winning pinnacle events and that's what it's all about but also what we do now, each stage is towards the Commonwealth Games.

"We've got to get into the finals first, that's a massive step in itself but we're building towards that. I know what our history is and it's that opportunity to change the ledger."

Taurua was a Silver Fern when netball was included in the Commonwealth Games programme for the first time in Kuala Lumpar in 1998.

"It was actually [exciting] it was very special I must say, it was the first opportunity to be amongst other teams.

"Probably my own realisation of how well netball has it and the support that we get from our national body definitely stood out for me. But also seeing other athletes was just something that I hadn't experienced. It was a great experience."

It was a typical tight final between the Diamonds and Silver Ferns, with the Australians prevailing by three goals.

In 2002 Australia again toppled New Zealand in the final, this time in double extra time at the Manchester Games.

"The history's there. Those double over-times and those games were just amazing. If Olympics is another event where netball can get out there that would be awesome but for us at the moment Commonwealth Games is definitely a highlight.

"You would expect always the top three or four are going to battle it out and that's cool."

Dejected Georgia Tong (r) and Grace Nweke of the Silver Ferns after losing third test to England, 2021.

Georgia Tong (r) and Grace Nweke of the Silver Ferns after losing third test to England, 2021. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The England Roses certainly reminded their rivals that they will be a massive threat in Birmingham next year after their 2-1 Taini Jamison series win over the Ferns two weeks ago.

The Roses shock win over the Australian Diamonds in the final at the last Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, was one of two major story lines of the 2018 Games.

The other was the well documented demise of the Silver Ferns, missing the final for the first time, and coming away without a medal.

The rest as they say is history, with Taurua taking over the reins and the Ferns achieving redemption by winning the World Cup the following year.

But the countdown is well and truly on for her next pinnacle event in charge, with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July next year.

The Silver Ferns are preparing to meet the Aotearoa Men in a three match series starting on Sunday in Wellington and Taurua is keen to rectify some of the shortcomings she saw in the series against the Roses.

"Coming out of Taini Jamison we didn't quite take the body on and if anything we pulled ourselves apart, we didn't handle that physicality.

"We have to be like that mentally when we play up against the men and that preparation going into that game has to be on point."

The Ferns surprise win over the New Zealand Men's team in the final of the Cadbury Series in October last year, was one of Taurua's major highlights of 2020.

Her side managed to turn a 13-goal loss into a three-goal win in the space of two days and she would like to see that kind of ruthlessness again.

"I thought it was a boomer last year when we played against the men so I think if we can do that it's a great step for us as a team and these guys as individuals as well."

Silver Ferns Maia Wilson. Silver Ferns v NZ Mens, Final, Cadbury Netball Series, Fly Palmy Arena, Palmerston North, New Zealand, Saturday 24 October 2020.

Maia Wilson. Silver Ferns v NZ Men. Cadbury Netball Series, Palmerston North, 24 October 2020. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

It has been difficult to prepare for a New Zealand Men's team that will be quite different to last year's side, with some notable omissions as a result of Covid restrictions.

"The only thing that we can do is really focus on the areas that we need to improve on but also know that the men will probably be like a Jamaican-Carribean style so what we do out on court we've got to be quite smart and adapt to that."

Three players got their Silver Ferns' debuts during the Roses series, including Grace Nweke, who looked nervous in her first outing.

"There's good things and there's bad things about that ...that's a start then you have to have a look and see what happens next time if they get the bib again and are they learning.

"And the good thing about this Cadbury Series is we're backing up straight away from the Taini Jamison where we know that we were exposed so it's always about learning. Can you get better and what can they do within a short space of time and we'll be able to see that."

The injury-depleted Silver Ferns will be managing the workloads of Tiana Metuarau and captain Gina Crampton, who picked up adductor strains in last month's series.

New Zealand will also be without vice captain Sulu Fitzpatrick, who will need another three to four weeks of recovery after hyper-extending her knee during the series.

Sam Winders, who stood in as captain for the final Test of the England series, has a back niggle and is unlikely to play in the first game against the men.