Photo / Source Netball NZ, Photographer Michael Bradley.
Tiana Metuarau, 20, who hails from Whāngara Mai Tawhiti, has won player of the match on her Silver Ferns test debut.
It is a remarkable feat for any young netballer to break the ice in the international netball arena, especially if they’re up against England. Without a packed crowd to play for in lockdown, Metuarau rose to the occasion: "You have to be involved 24/7," was how she described the match in Christchurch last night.
This year has shown how far Metuarau has developed after signing with the Southern Steel in Invercargill. She had been sitting on the bench for most of 2020 with the Pulse in the ANZ Premiership.
New Zealand fans had to watch the game from home and didn’t know what to expect. With former captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio on maternity leave, it was obvious the Ferns attacking line-up had to be special. So, Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua needed "a bit of sass" in the group to defend the Taini Jamison Trophy by announcing Metuarau in the starting line-up upon her arrival to the stadium.
“My appetite was shrinking for most of the day just because I was nervous," Metuarau says.
From the stands, her mother, Waimarama Taumaunu, a former Silver Fern world champion, was enjoying her debut – with them becoming the third set of mothers and daughters in Netball New Zealand’s history to wear the black dress.
The partnership between Metuarau in goal attack, shooting 17/19 (90%) and Maia Wilson in goal shoot, shooting 31/39 (80%) was significant. That’s because the England Roses defence was far more experienced than last year with the likes of Commonwealth Games gold medalist Geva Mentor in goal keep and Layla Guscoth in goal defence.
Metuarau was unfazed by the occasion playing against her birth country, getting two defensive pickups and engaging effectively with clever offloads to her shooting partner Wilson.
“It was huge, it was a lot more tiring,” she said. “A massive step up from ANZ.”
It's an amazing achievement for the Silver Ferns who had the package in the end given they only had four days training together due to New Zealand alert level 4 restrictions. To think, the team had 268 test caps shy of England goes to show how tough they are to beat, winning the match 48-42.
Taurua will want to see more from her new shooter in Metuarua.
“That was a fantastic start for her," Taurua said. “When you have your debut it’s always that second test to be able to see how good or not, or what other areas she needs to improve on.”
However, more changes are expected to be rolled out from the 18-player squad on Wednesday night as it may be the last time internationals are on the calendar due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.