NZ's first netball world champion coach receives Silver Ferns tribute video

By Taroi Black

Silver Ferns legend Taini Jamison, 92, is the only Māori icon to have her name on a trophy contested in any international sport post-Covid-19.    

Captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio and her team recorded a special mihi which was sent to the former coach, "We know you can't be here with us but your spirit will be," she says. 

In response, Jamison, who is currently living in Ōtaki with her son Tom Jamison, watched in awe as the video was played in their living room. 

"That makes me feel so proud of them, they," Jamison says. 

Tonight, the current world champs face their last test match of the year against a winless England Roses side in Hamilton.

While Jamison could not make the trip to the game at Claudelands Arena, she is impressed by Dame Noeline Taurua's coaching style, "best coach in the world," she admits.

The history that has led the Silver Ferns to five world cup titles in 56 years began in 1967, where Jamison was also the first Māori to lead the national side as head-coach.

Based in Rotorua at the time, she was an integral part of selecting players she trusted would do the job, that included the defensive duo of Billie Irwin and Tilly Vercoe.  In the shooting circle, Jamison's close relative, the left-handed shot at goal Mirth Solomon, led the Silver Ferns haka after winning the final 40-34 over Australia in Perth.  

Jamison's close friends Marlene Flavell and Mary Thompson from Rotorua Netball Centre have been attending the Taini Jamison test series since the first match on Wednesday.

Flavell, who is a former Silver Ferns selector, holds special memories of the netball pioneer who paved the way forward for Māori to play the sport.

"She's always wanted to always strive to have young Māori girls be ahead and achieve their goals to be in the Silver Ferns," Flavell says. '

Behind the success, not only at the elite level but at the grass-roots level as well, the secretary for the local Rotorua netball association Mary Thompson has worked alongside Jamison for many years to ensure the oldest club competition, Kurangaituku Netball Tournament, reaches its 90th anniversary in three years. 

"She had a lot of influence among young kids being a school teacher," Thompson says.  

The Silver Ferns have already secured the Taini Jamison Trophy after winning their first and second tests, completing a successful year winning all three championships, including the Nations Cup in January and the historic win over the NZ Men's Netball in the final of the Cadbury Netball Series.