Netball player raised in Tūhoe rohe debuts for the Silver Ferns

By Taroi Black

People in Waimana Valley in the heart of Tuhoe will be cheering on their own Monica Falkner who will debut for the Silver Ferns as they take on England's Roses in the three test matches in Hamilton.

Raised on a farm, Falkner (Tuhoe and Whakatohea) becomes the first netball representative in the modern game to come from Waimana Valley to wear the black dress. Her whanau received the news moments after her selection.   

“They were more excited than I was,” she says.

“It wasn’t an“oh my god” moment for me but it was icing on the cake.”

The 24-year-old Falkner (Whakatohea and Tuhoe) was announced as the third shooter to represent New Zealand on the day after her week-long appearance in Ferns and the NZA team in the trial matches of the Cadbury Netball Series in Palmerston North.

Head coach Dame Noeline Taurua and assistant coach Debbie Fuller selected their 12-strong player squad from both the Ferns and the NZA team.

Unexpected return

“I don’t know why I was stressing about it. We woke up, had a meeting – on the bus, you were either on the NZA bus or the Ferns.”

15 months ago the Waikato BOP Magic goal attack thought her rise to the pinnacle of New Zealand netball was to be short-lived after suffering a nasty knee injury.   

During her time out of the game while the domestic league of the ANZ Premiership continued through the pandemic, it took real commitment and dedication to her recovery to be selected for the national side.

“Everything that happened was probably good for me because I’ve come back a lot stronger.”

Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton is the second place she calls home and she’s urging locals to attend the first international test of any respective country since Covid-19 hit.

Taurua says the opportunity to select Falkner to be their third shooter for this week’s series in the Taini Jamison Trophy will provide more mobility, given she’s not as tall as Maia Wilson and Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

“She plays the goal attack and goal shoot - I loved her aerial. Usually, her shooting percentages are really high,” she said.

“I’m fully really aware of her knee and her ACL so I want to make sure she’s fully ready before she does take the court.”