6 Apr 2024

Silver Ferns coach keen to relax rules around players competing in Australian league

1:40 pm on 6 April 2024
Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua at the 2023 Netball World Cup © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix/ www.photosport.nz

Dame Noeline Taurua. Photo: BackPage / www.photosport.nz

Dame Noeline Taurua and Netball New Zealand are on "the same page" about the need for change, including relaxing the rules around players wanting to compete in the Australian league.

Dame Noeline said there were things outside of her control that had to change if the Silver Ferns wanted to win the next World Cup and she raised them during the process to reapply for her job.

The popular coach has been re-instated to the Silver Ferns for another two years after the role was opened up leading into the 2027 World Cup.

She took the Silver Ferns to a World Cup victory in 2019, but the last two years have been lean, culminating in the Ferns coming fourth at last year's World Cup.

Dame Noeline said the interview process forced her to challenge herself.

"I dug a little bit deeper and found out there was something else I could do in the programme and to make it move and be better. And because of that process I was able to be quite open and transparent about what I think," she said.

"You've got to be quite strong with your convictions and back the words on the paper.

"Making sure that I put across a campaign plan that was refreshing, new, and that had clear steps to showcase what we were going to do to win Netball World Cup."

She believed the Silver Ferns needed four world-class athletes in the team at any given time to be able to compete at the top.

Netball World Cup Semi Final - England v New Zealand - M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, England - New Zealand's Laura Langman. 2019.

Laura Langman was not able to play for the Silver Ferns for a period because she played in the Australian league. She was later given an exemption. Photo: © SWpix.com (t/a Photography Hub Ltd)

At the 2019 World Cup, the New Zealand team included Casey Kopua, Laura Langman, Maria Folau, and Katrina Rore, who were as good as anyone on the international stage.

"We've only won the Netball World Cup six times in our existence, and that's been 16 years in between drinks. When people leave we don't have the depth or the systems to be able to grow within that moment.

"So if I took that same approach or wasn't able to acknowledge that, then really if we keep going how we're going we won't win the next World Cup until 2035."

Dame Noeline said her interview presentation was not just about what she could do as the coach but what needed to change on a broader level, because she could not do it alone.

"Skill sets is really easy, we can do that and look at the other areas that we can squeeze [improvement] from - either from a coaching perspective, our coach structure, communication, how can management be better etc. so that we are more effective.

"But what's going to happen from an organisational, from a systems change? What are the areas that we need to improve in netball in general so that we all play our part in us being in contention for the next World Cup. So I was able to voice that and felt quite rejuvenated because of it.

"We can't keep going on like we are going on and whether it's from a competition, athlete, or management point of view, we need to be able to put that out there."

For many years the battle at the top was a two horse race between New Zealand and Australia but now England and Jamaica often beat the Silver Ferns and countries like South Africa and Uganda are getting closer all the time.

The Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 winners, Silver Ferns' Laura Langman with the trophy during the medal ceremony.

Dame Noeline took the Silver Ferns to a remarkable World Cup victory in 2019. Photo: Alex Whitehead /SWpix.com / Photosport

Top import players have benefited from playing in the Australian league, but it's rare for New Zealand players to ply their trade across the Tasman as it makes them ineligible for the Silver Ferns.

During the process Dame Noeline discussed the need to relax the rules around those players wanting to play in Australia.

"That was one of the things that we discussed. From a board perspective those are the decisions they have to make but I also believe we need a lot of international exposure.

"We need four world class athletes and the only way that we can do it with the current experience or inexperience that we have, is by either getting more games against clubs, or finding another way or opportunity for them to compete in other competitions.

"That's definitely an area that I talked to them about, the good thing is they're thinking about that themselves, so we're both on the same page."

By isolating itself does New Zealand risk falling behind?

"There were good reasons as to why they [the NNZ Board] made the decision but I think as all good boards, all good organizations, you've got to adapt depending on what's happening at the landscape at this moment.

"The great thing is that we're all on the same page that we know we have to change.

"I think now we've got to be strategic as to what pieces that we keep, because you don't want to gut New Zealand out as well, that's not going to be good for us. So I'm assuming in the next couple of years, if not sooner, that we'll see what that looks like."

Dame Noeline Taurua Coach of the Silver Ferns and her assistant Debbie Fuller

Noeline Taurua and Deb Fuller have been side by side since 2018. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

When Dame Noeline answered the SOS call in 2018 to become the Silver Ferns coach, she enlisted the help of Deb Fuller, who has been the assistant coach during her tenure.

She said the next step was to look at the whole team management structure, which Fuller was a part of.

"Both me and Debs want to make sure that we are the right people so whether there's the same process that we go through we're not too sure but definitely know from a management point of view that we need to do a bit of work."

But does Dame Noeline want her there?

"I'd always have Debs, definitely, but I think there needs to be a process once again, to make sure that we can deliver on the job that we do, and that we are the right people."

The intention is that Dame Noeline will be in charge at the 2027 Netball World Cup in Sydney but both parties felt a two year contract was the best option.

"There's an element of risk that either I can't deliver, Netball New Zealand can't deliver, or we don't like each other as it progresses along.

"So two years is a stage to track how we are progressing against certain evidence, but also make sure that both parties are happy. It also ensures that there's enough time for somebody else to come in, if a replacement needs to happen."

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