17 Dec 2023

Former Silver Fern Sam Winders signs with Australian franchise

11:48 pm on 17 December 2023
Samantha Winders of the Silver Ferns.

Sam Winders Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Former Silver Fern Sam Winders has been signed with the Giants for the 2024 Suncorp Super Netball season in Australia.

Winders joins just a handful of New Zealand players to have played in the Super Netball competition since its inception in 2017.

The last was Laura Langman, who retired at the end of her final season with the Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2020.

Speculation was rife in Australia that Winders would join the Giants but signings are only just being confirmed by clubs now after a new Collective Player Agreement was finally locked in a few days ago.

The 28-year-old will bring a lot of experience to the Sydney based Giants after a National League career spanning 10 years and 138 games.

She spent the first nine years of her career at the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, before a venture south this year to the Southern Steel.

Winders will reunite with veteran Australian coach Julie Fitzgerald, who had a three-year stint at the Magic between 2013 and 2016.

The former Magic captain will also re-unite with former team-mates Jo Harten and Jamie-Lee Price, who is now an established Australian Diamonds midcourter.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald (right) and Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua.

Julie Fitzgerald (right) and former Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua during the 2015 ANZ Championship season. Photo: Photosport

Winders has 47 Test caps for New Zealand and was named the Silver Ferns' Player of the Year in 2021 when she emerged as the side's starting wing defence.

Winders then missed out on last year's Commonwealth Games team and dropped down to the Silver Ferns development squad.

When the Silver Ferns 2023/24 squads were announced in August, Winders was unavailable for selection as she was said to be taking a break from netball.

Under Netball New Zealand policy, to be eligible for selection in the Silver Ferns, players must be signed with an ANZ Premiership team.

Primarily a wing defence/centre slide, Winders could find herself switching between both positions with Price.

Winders is seen as a dogged, tenacious player, who will fit into the Australian style well.

Winders said she was grateful and excited for the new challenge.

"It's a massive privilege to have the opportunity to play in the Suncorp Super Netball league," she said.

"I felt like I was in a transitioning phase of my career. Ten years of playing at the top level had me asking, 'now what else do I want to do before it's all over?' When the opportunity came up to play in Australia and for the GIANTS, it just felt like the right thing to do, at the right time."

Winders said the opportunity to reunite with Fitzgerald, her first coach at the elite level, and Harten and Price was a contributing factor.

Magics Samantha Winders. ANZ Premiership Netball, Magic v Mystics, Hamilton, Sunday 13th March 2022.

Sam Winders captained the Magic. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"They're all great women, who are superstars of the sport," Winders said.

Winders said she has watched on from afar since the GIANTS were introduced into the revised competition back in 2017 and can't wait to get involved in the club.

"I've followed the GIANTS closely since their inception given I knew some of the girls. From the outside it looks like an awesome club with an awesome game day atmosphere and I'm super pumped to get amongst it," she said.

GIANTS coach Julie Fitzgerald said she was ecstatic to reveal the club's first new signing for the 2024 season.

"Sam's versatility and experience will complement our 2024 list and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with her again.

"She has the characteristic of what we believe makes a GIANTS player both on and off the court and she will fit in seamlessly.

Winders is the first of three new signings for the GIANTS 2024 season, joining a cohort of current players who re-signed on Friday.