Netball is an integral part of New Zealand’s dynamic sporting culture. Steeped in history, it was introduced to New Zealand as ‘women’s basketball’ in 1906 – a nine-a-side game played on grass, with baskets tied to posts at either end of the court.
The COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2020, resulting in the cancellation of the Beko Netball League, two new domestic competitions planned for 2020, the Netball NZ U18 Champs and the Netball NZ Open Champs, and the national secondary schools’ events. There was a ray of sunshine when a revised ANZ Premiership got the go-ahead. An eventual move to Level 1 meant the league became the first professional women’s sporting competition in the world to return to action in front of crowds since the start of the global lockdown in March. In what had previously seemed unlikely, the Silver Ferns also got to play in front of home crowds. The Cadbury Series, featuring the Silver Ferns, New Zealand Men’s team and NZA was followed by the Taini Jamison series against England, the first international netball tests to be played since the outbreak of COVID-19. Earlier in the year, New Zealand’s most capped netballer, Laura Langman called time on her illustrious 163-test 15-year international career. Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua was acknowledged in the New Year’s Honours with a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to netball.
The impact of the wide-reaching consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic was evident once again in 2021, resulting in another disrupted year for many parts of the netball community. The Silver Ferns were among the casualties after their programme suffered plenty of upheaval, starting with the Constellation Cup series against Australia in March. While the ANZ Premiership, National Netball League and Netball NZ U18 Champs were able to complete their competitions, the inaugural Netball NZ Open Champs and NZ Secondary Schools Champs were not so fortunate. There was further disappointment in March when the Netball World Youth Cup 2021 (NWYC) scheduled for December 2 – 11 in Fiji was also cancelled. Adapting to an ever-changing landscape became part and parcel of life as a Silver Fern, Covid-19 once again being an influencing factor in their end of year programme. The three-test Cadbury Netball Series against the Vitality Roses was staged solely in Christchurch and including matches being played without crowds. There was similar disruption for the second instalment of the Cadbury Netball Series just two weeks later between the Silver Ferns and Aotearoa Men when a change in location was required. The first player to captain the Silver Ferns in New Zealand, Oonah Shannahan (nee Murray) also became the first to turn 100, when she celebrated the rare milestone in September. New Zealand’s Shirley Hooper was elected as the new Vice President of World Netball.