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Kiwi stalwarts honoured with World Netball awards

Iconic New Zealand netball figures Yvonne Willering and Ruth Aitken have been honoured with service awards from World Netball (formerly International Netball Federation).

The service awards recognise the duo’s incredible contribution to the sport both in New Zealand and internationally.

Willering is one of the genuine greats of the game - with her influence felt all around the globe.

From a world champion player, to Silver Ferns coach, umpire to international commentator and advisor to aspiring netball nations across the globe, Yvonne’s relationship with the game spans beyond 50 years.

First spotted at school for her height, reach and leap, the girl born in the Netherlands quickly became a dynamic defender. She would go on to play for Auckland, and then New Zealand for a decade – playing at three World Cups, and winning the world title in 1979.

Taking all she learned on and off the court, Yvonne has poured that into an outstanding coaching career, including winning six national titles with Auckland.

At the helm of the Silver Ferns, first as caretaker coach then head coach, Yvonne led the Ferns in 51 tests, with 39 wins and one draw.

Her almost unrivalled knowledge is still sought after by teams throughout New Zealand and the world, called on to guide players, coaches and administrators.

She’s been head coach of the Fiji Pearls, and has advised the national sides of South Africa, Australia and Vanuatu. She also worked with the Silver Ferns in their build-up to their 2018 World Cup victory.

She continues to develop coaches worldwide as a member of the INF coaching advisory panel.

No matter who she’s helped over the years, Yvonne’s motivation has always been to make the game greater.

This latest well-deserved accolade joins being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and a life member of Netball New Zealand.

Aitken meanwhile, has won the Netball World Cup for New Zealand both on the court and off it, but her impact on netball – particularly in coaching – has radiated throughout the world.

A Silver Fern in the team who won the 1979 world tournament, Ruth then became one of New Zealand’s most successful sporting coaches. She guided the Ferns for nine years, during which they won the 2003 Netball World Cup, back-to-back Commonwealth Games gold medals, and the 2009 World Netball Series.

Moving into her role as Netball New Zealand’s coaching director, Ruth helped set a new direction for coaching at every level of the game, markedly increasing the number of coaches in New Zealand. She was also a national selector for three years.

But the reach of her influence goes way beyond Aotearoa. Ruth spent three years coaching in Singapore, shaping the success and development of their national team.

She’s been a member of the World Netball Coaching Advisory Panel and she continues to help Netball New Zealand with the Pacific Sporting Partnership, delivering netball training to Fiji, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.

Ruth’s professionalism, integrity and meticulous approach has also been in demand with other sports. She is a member of the NZ Sports Tribunal, that rules on a range of sporting disputes.

But her heart is never far from netball. Ruth was a coach mentor for the successful New Zealand U21s at the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup, and has previously been the performance manager in the Waikato Bay of Plenty Zone.

This latest accolade sits alongside being made a life member of Netball New Zealand and an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for her services to netball.