17 Mar 2023

Netball NZ boss says Silver Ferns can deliver as organisation approaches milestone

9:50 am on 17 March 2023
The Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 winners, Silver Ferns' Laura Langman with the trophy during the medal ceremony.

The Silver Ferns 2019 World Cup victory in Liverpool was gripping on a number of levels. Photo: Alex Whitehead /SWpix.com / Photosport

Netball New Zealand Chief Executive Jennie Wyllie is confident the Silver Ferns are in a good position to defend their World Cup title in July.

And while the team will be competing offshore at the same time Aotearoa co-hosts the biggest women's sporting event in the world, she believes the Silver Ferns' campaign for another gold will generate plenty of interest.

Last year was a big year for women's cricket and rugby with the White Ferns and Black Ferns having home world cups and enjoying the boost in profile which comes from that.

Later this year New Zealand co-host the FIFA Women's World Cup, along with Australia.

For a whole month from the 20th of July the Football Ferns and visiting sides will naturally get a lot of attention. The Netball World Cup takes place between 28th of July and 6th of August in Cape Town.

Aotearoa came close to hosting a fourth World Cup in the space of two years but Netball New Zealand just missed out to South Africa in its bid for hosting rights.

Wyllie believed all codes could leverage off the greater exposure that women's sport has been getting.

"The actual groundswell of support has really been there and we've seen some great stats come out around the visibility of women's sport as a result and I think all female sport is benefiting," Wyllie said.

Netball NZ CEO Jennie Wyllie

Netball New Zealand Chief Executive Jennie Wyllie. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2016 www.photosport.nz

"We have to work hard to make sure that with the Netball World Cup on at the same time as the FIFA World Cup, that it gets heard but I think actually these codes are really keen to work together because it's mutually beneficial.

"We need to continue the good work around ensuring that visibility is there and it's super important for us to be able to perform well on the world stage irrespective of what events are held back here in New Zealand."

Wyllie said netball had the advantage of having a 16 week domestic competition (ANZ Premiership) in the lead up to the World Cup.

"We're one of the few women's sports in New Zealand which is on screen for extended periods of time and that means that our story isn't just for a period of time while a world cup is on, it's actually 12 months a year.

"The way that netball is established here, it gives us a really good lead in to the World Cup, we've got a good runway to make sure that people are aware it's coming up and it gives our commercial partners great exposure as well."

The Silver Ferns 2019 World Cup victory in Liverpool was gripping on a number of levels, not least because what coach Dame Noeline Taurua and her side achieved was so unexpected.

Wyllie said January's Quad series in Cape Town was a great chance for Dame Noeline to get on the ground and see what other teams are bringing to the table.

"Australia remain really strong but we have beaten them recently, same thing with England and with South Africa and we all know what happened with Jamaica last year.

"Our view is we've been out there and when we produce our best netball we are absolutely up there with a chance and like our chances to take out a back to back world cup ...we're hoping everything goes our way come the tournament."

Diamonds line up for the national anthems ahead of the opening Constellation Cup test against the Silver Ferns.

The Australian Diamonds are still the benchmark. Photo: Aaron Gillions / www.photosport.nz

A significant milestone is coming up for Netball New Zealand as it gets ready to celebrate its 100 year centenary next year.

"It's going to be a really exciting time to be able to celebrate the trailblazers, the females that participated in sport when it wasn't the done thing, outside of the home.

"To be able to really look back at the richness and the social impact that these women and their families have made throughout New Zealand and our DNA is going to be a great way to celebrate the 100 years so really looking forward to being able to bring that to life for everyone."

Netball is still easily the highest participation female sport in New Zealand but is facing more competition as traditionally male-dominated sports start to feel more inclined to invest more in the women's side of the game.

In the past year, other codes have taken strides towards professionalism with the establishment of football's Phoenix Women, Super Rugby Aupiki, and New Zealand's first professional women's basketball league.

Last year a new collective agreement effectively made the White Ferns the best paid female sports team in New Zealand and the very best players now have the potential to earn big money in the Women's Premier League in cricket mad India.

On a global scale sports like football and cricket are two of the richest in the world so have got deeper pockets than a game that was created by and for women.

Grace Nweke of New Zealand during the Constellation Cup netball series.

Silver Fern Grace Nweke will be a key figure at the World Cup. Photo: Aaron Gillions / www.photosport.nz

"We have to keep abreast of all of that I think one of the key things is we do not have a men's game that cross subsidises the women's game so everything that we've built is on the hard graft of ensuring visibility for the female game.

"So yeah we've got to have a watching brief, it's got to be sustainable, you've got to grow the fan base, you've got to keep working at it and that's something that we're really mindful of."

Wyllie believed netball was is a good position to stay very competitive at the top.

"What we know from 20 years of clawing our way to a place where netball can sustain athletes in a semi-professional and professional level is it's a long slow burn and irrespective of immediate gains you've got to be able to continue to deliver against them and we've proven that we can do that.

"What we have to ensure that we keep doing is have a connected system from grassroots right through to the elite programmes and that's one of our differentiators and one of the things that we're incredibly proud of."

Wyllie said a lot of it was about winning hearts and minds.

"Not everyone is going to make it through to the elite level. It has to be a sport that is loved from grassroots right through to elite for it to be sustainable. If we continue to provide great participant experiences, people will continue to be involved and then I think we will remain competitive at that elite end."