Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua is signalling the ANZ Premiership 2021 season as the toughest league with no clear front-runner.
This year is “really exciting” that four of the six franchises are still led by coaches who are of Maori heritage, she said.
A winning culture is ingrained into the former three-time champion coach for Waikato BOP Magic and twice for the Australian netball franchise Sunshine Coast Lightning. She knows it will take smarts around the coaching and planning to develop their brand.
“The flavour has definitely changed."
So far, two coaches who whakapapa as Maori have tasted victory over the last four years since its competition's inception in 2017. Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham claimed both titles in 2017 and 2018, while Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse coach Yvette McClausland-Durie fell short in those grand finals appearances, though they were premiership winners of 2019 and 2020 seasons.
“They can also influence others - not only in the ANZ or the Silver Ferns but also the grassroots.” Taurua says.
Southern Steel coach Reinga Bloxham (centre) and captain Shannon Saunders (right).
Bloxham who was part of the Southern Sting winning era under Robyn Broughton is elated that other aspiring Maori coaches will “identify with us whether “that could be me” - I think says a lot about ourselves as women,” she says.
Steel's roster will finally open its season for the first time ever in the ANZ Premiership at their home stadium in Invercargill against Mainland Tactix, while boasting six new signings for its 10-player squad.
Robinhood Stars captain Maia Wilson, coach Kiri Wills (left), Te Wananga o Raukawa Pulse coach Gail Parata and captain Claire Kerston (right).
Pulse have a new coach at the helm after McClausland-Durie departed last year to help develop grass-root netball. Gail Parata, who returns home after six years as head-coach for Scotland Thistles, isn't aiming for a “three-peat”. The opportunity to inject new blood is her main focus since former captain Katrina Rore and star-defender Karin Burger are not part of its 2021 campaign.
The opening match of 2021 will be hosted by the defending champions in Palmerston North over the Manukau-based club Robinhood Stars, coached by Kiri Wills. In her fourth season after finishing in fourth place, 2021 presents new opportunities. Captained by Silver Ferns top shooter Maia Wilson, 23, the league's youngest-ever skipper appointed in all franchises. The signing of world champions Gina Crampton and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Anna Harrison, 38, will boost its team experience and morale.
Wills attended the ANZ Premiership launch at Auckland’s ANZ Centre and alongside other five coaches felt the cultural connection of other kaiako Maori.
“It just shows the system supports us and we're prepared to do the work,” she says.
Waikato BOP Magic coach Amigene Metcalfe.
There’s so much hype and anticipation over coach Amigene Metcalfe's Waikato BOP Magic side since finishing last in 2020. The signing of the two-time world champion goal-shooter for Australia, Caitlin Bassett, and the return of Commonwealth Games gold medalist Grace Kara (NZ) will likely restore mana back into the club's rich history at the elite level.
Coach Amigene Metcalfe says having diversity in the coaching line "brings a range of styles" with its team's strong focus on kaupapa Maori. That included traditional karakia (blessings) of their new strip of Maori-designed playing uniforms symbolic of its Maori communities.
Northern Mystics will close off round 1 against Magic at Trust Arena in Waitakere (west Auckland), with 14 weekly rounds to go.