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Is New Zealand Netball on the Rebound?

Massive’s resident sports jockey, Adam Pearse, tackles the sporting quandaries of our time with the skill of Saville, the daring of Devillin, and the vibrancy of Veitchy (forgetting his history with stairways). From cricket to croquet and everything in between, these are the Yarns from Pitch Five.

I want to start this by admitting a grievous act of mine to the readers of Yarns of Pitch Five. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. But on Wednesday, September 13, I switched the channel from the Canterbury vs Counties Manukau rugby game to watch the Silver Ferns play the Roses as part of Netball’s Taini Jamison trophy deciding match. Not once in my life have I ever traded rugby for netball without being under extreme duress from my mother after she’s polished off a bottle of Sav and decided to use it as a weapon. I have always remained steadfast in my opinion that New Zealand rugby is undoubtedly more entertaining than New Zealand netball. And yet, I found myself drawn to the fight of the foliage, the Ferns vs the Roses, the constant struggle for ascendency with intercepts became crucial as the clock wound down.

Now, some context may be valuable to this situation as the rugby game I had previously been watching was one that had Canterbury scoring tries for fun which, for some, may be entertaining, but for me, a full-on spanking is only enjoyable in one set of circumstances and it sure as hell ain’t on a rugby field. But back to main point, the feeling that I felt that evening was one that will be shared across the nation. This was a game that was captivating to every viewer and it made me wonder whether we may be seeing a resurgence in our most elegant sport.

For those who don’t know, New Zealand and Australia have been the dominant powers in international netball for some time but over the past few years, Australia has outclassed New Zealand time and time again at both the international and domestic level. I remember the days of my youth where a young Irene van Dyk and a robust Vilimaina Davu would dominate against any opposition and an ‘across the ditch’ derby would be a fiercely contested battle of Netball superpowers. It is this level pf play that had seemed to escape our national side but in games of late, the quality of our girls has been exemplary.

Beating Australia in a convincing fashion and then taking out a three-game series with England, winning comfortably in the final decider, these things show promise. The reason for this is all down to the ANZ Championship. The ANZ Championship was the domestic netball competition that included both Australian and New Zealand franchises however, that all changed in 2017. Due to consistent poor outings by New Zealand teams against Australian teams, New Zealand has formed its own provincial competition, comprising of six teams from across the country.

What this has done is allow us to get back to formulating a ‘New Zealand’ style of play. In the past, we had been forced to play the Australians at their own game. Now, we have the opportunity to develop fresh talent in an atmosphere that is totally our own. And it shows when you look at our team. We have the likes of Bailey Mes at the top of the court, whose movement off the ball and shooting accuracy is rivalled only by her partner in the ever-classy Maria Tutaia. At the back, we have the young skill of Temalisi Fakahokotau, a name so enjoyable to say, it may become my new favourite swear word. This girl has some serious hops and when paired with the veteran centurion in Katrina Grant, there isn’t many defensive pairings that match their ability. All in all,  what happened on that fateful Wednesday night was just a one off but if the Ferns carry on in this form in the Constellation Cup against the Aussies, it might become a regular occurrence.

 

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