Record crowd for NZ Netball Men vs Silver Ferns

By Taroi Black
Silver Ferns goal defence Jane Watson turns the ball over against NZ Mens / Photo credit: Michael Bradley 

Netball's NZ Men's team has never played in front of large crowds. So it was making history when the team beat world champions the Silver Ferns closely watched by more than 2,500 passionate fans in the Fly Palmy Arena in Palmerston North last night. 

Goal shooter Junior Levi, who stands at 2.14m, was amazed to see a packed out Fly Palmy Arena.

“For the boys, a lot to take in,” he says.

The crowd was treated to a range of aerial skills and athletic ability by his team, whose size, heights and speed made the win a sure bet and gave the Silver Ferns a real workout in their preparation for their series against England.

The world champion Silver Ferns had a gripping fight against the NZ Men, who won 60-47 in day two of the Cadbury Netball Series.

NZ Men were initially gearing up for their World cup Catch in Perth but that was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. That event usually sees a few hundred spectators but this series involving New Zealand A, the New Zealand Under 21s and the NZ Mens has become a popular event on the netball calendar.

Dogged defensive trio

Despite the Ferns closing the first half by five points behind the NZ Men, they were unable to sustain the pressure, especially against a dogged defensive trio in Jaryn Tainui (wing defence), Jake Schuster (goal defence) and Joseph Tukaki (goalkeeper). 

“It really presents the girls the opportunity to really work around the physical attributes we have," Levis says.

NZ Mens skipper Kruze Tangira (centre) got the Player of the Match award, which world cup winger attack Gina Crampton supported. “Kruze really controlled the tempo and I think that’s great,” she says.

Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua wasn’t worried about the result as she gave each of her 12 players two quarters each with the aim of preparing them for the Taini Jamison Trophy game against England next week in Hamilton.

Taurua changed her line-up from the game against NZA, calling up Maori shooter Monica Falkner who had her first appearance in the black dress, as well as Whitney Souness and Sam Winders, which showed how serious the live trials are ahead of selections on Sunday.

The 18-year-old newbie Grace Nweke matched the NZ Men well in height, since she is 1.93cm. Her confidence grew throughout the match, forcing shooter Junior Levi to switch positions and he finished as goalkeeper.

Tonight the Ferns will have their last match against the NZu21 before the finals of the series tomorrow.