The Silver Ferns have taken out the prestigious Halberg Team of the Year Award tonight. It’s been 16 years between drinks since New Zealand has seen the Ferns receive top honours at the event in any sporting team.
One could argue that the influence and impact Dame Noeline Taurua has made on the team steered the ship that many claimed was on the verge of sinking since dropping to 4th place in the international netball rankings.
The triumphant world cup win against Australia in Liverpool by 1 point will go down in history as one of the all-time greats in sporting history.
Three players who contributed to that success is none other than the ‘Fossils’ Captain Laura Langman, Casey Kopua and Maria Folau. All three players have paved an emphatic pathway for future Silver Ferns players sharing 425 test caps between them.
The biggest surprises in Vitality Netball World Cup tournament was Kopua breaking her silence with Te Ao Maori News that she was pregnant during the tournament leading up to her last game in the black dress in the finals. In addition, sealing the hearts of all New Zealanders when she won player of the match for the gold medal.
Then followed the retirement of Folau who will go down as one of the best shooters in Aotearoa, maintaining a high level of international netball and known for her long bomb shooting. Who knew she would overcome hard criticism as well for sharing a social media post by her husband Israel Folau believes that gay people ‘go to hell’ unless they 'repent'. Despite that she maintained her composure to ensure that her country would come out on top in Liverpool.
For Langman, her road to the World Cup wasn’t an easy task. In 2016 she sacrificed 134 consecutive test caps to play in Australia, eventually winning the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball competition, which features the best players across the globe, but her victory was led by coach Dame Taurua.
The reason for her absence from the Ferns under the former leadership of Netball New Zealand that no player from Aotearoa could be eligible to play overseas during the ANZ Premierships. However, following a disastrous campaign at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, an independent review panel was made that NNZ should revisit how they conduct their Silver Ferns selection policies.
Dame Taurua was finally announced after that independent review to lead the Ferns into a new era and work towards building a new culture ahead of the 2019 world cup. This followed the resignation of former national head coach Janine Southby by end of the review since the Ferns failed to medal and losing dramatically to Malawi leaving players in tears. Taurua then looked to select the fittest players New Zealand could produce for Liverpool, also throwing former captain from the Commonwealth Games Katrina Rore a lifeline after her successful campaign with the Central Pulse winning their first domestic league.
However, the difference for Rore at the world cup was playing in an unfamiliar position as wing defence, to which she found challenging and exciting. Her tenacious attitude won her credentials to play in the Australian league, winning her third title of 2019 with the NSW Swifts.
All in all the Ferns had a mix of experience and positive prospects of players that would help lead the national side into the next four-year cycle. Ameliaranne Ekenasio would become that reliable shooter finishing off the winning goals against England in the semi-finals and then over Australia to win the cup.
Her sniper shooting style, and her ability to rally the team around her, meant that Dame Taurua would appoint Ekenasio as the new Silver Ferns captain. Ekenasio led them against South Africa, Jamaica and the hosts England in the Nations Cup without losing a single game.
The last Silver Fern captain to win a Team of the Year Halberg was 2003 World Cup winner Anna Stanley, said that the team was good 'at dancing on tables'.