Read the first chapter of Will to Win

<p>Read the first chapter of Will to Win </p>

Read the first chapter of Will to Win 


Will to win


Rivalry, resilience and redemption 

The Silver Ferns are New Zealand’s national netball team. The team name originates from the silver underside of the leaves on the tree fern Cyathea dealbata, an iconic symbol for many New Zealand sports teams.

Historically, the Silver Ferns have been one of the top two national netball teams in the world. They have qualified to compete at every World Netball Championships (initially known as the World Tournament, now World Cup) since its inauguration in 1963, and at every Commonwealth Games since the inclusion of netball in 1998. They have won the World Championships five times (1967, 1979, 1987, 2003 and 2019) and wonthe World Games title in 1985 and 1989. They also won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and 2010.

However, the 80-year history of the fierce rivalry between the Australian Diamonds and the Silver Ferns has long favoured the Australians. At the end of the 2019 season, the Australians had won 95 of the 151 international matches between the two nations, with New Zealand winning 54 and two games being drawn (see Table 1). Many of Australia’s wins in title duels against New Zealand have also been heartbreakingly close. On four occasions (1963, 1991, 1999 and 2011) Australia beat New Zealand by one goal. In 1999 the Silver Ferns were the in-form team going into the World Cup, and during the final match in Christchurch they took a six-goal lead heading into the final quarter. The Diamonds fought back, and with 22 seconds left on the clock the scores were tied. Donna Wilkins (née Loffhagen) had a shot to win for the Ferns and missed. Liz Ellis regained it, the ball flew down the court in typical Australian style, and Sharelle McMahon sank the pressure shot to win the cup for the Diamonds. For the Ferns, with victory snatched away in the final seconds against their closest rivals, the one-point loss was gut-wrenching. On top of this came a double-overtime loss to the Diamonds in the 2002 Commonwealth Games final, with McMahon again shooting the winning goal.

The following year, however, the Silver Ferns won the Netball World Cup, breaking the Diamonds’ 16-year winning streak and gaining redemption for the losses in 1999 and 2002. And in 2019 — by which time the Diamonds had built up another 16-year unbeaten streak — the Ferns won the World Cup again with a thrilling one-point victory in Liverpool.

The Silver Ferns had been vilified in the press for their performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, when there were plenty of tears and questions after their 60–55 loss to Jamaica robbed them of a medal. A week earlier, they had suffered their first ever defeat to Malawi. In 2019, however, Casey Kopua (née Williams) came out of retirement, Laura Langman was finally handed an exemption from Netball New Zealand’s selection policy for playing in Australia, and Katrina Rore (née Grant) returned to the team, having initially missed selection after captaining the unsuccessful 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign. Star shooter Maria Folau (née Tutaia) was also instrumental to the team’s success, despite the distraction of her husband, Israel Folau’s, very public sacking by the Australian Rugby Union for his comments on social media.

However, it was Noeline Taurua’s appointment as coach that provided the ‘perfect storm’, and the catalyst for what had appeared an unlikely win just months before.

Commenting on that win, netball coaching legend Dame Lois Muir opined that the ‘Australians think they walk on water, but really, they were catching up all the time. New Zealand were sort of controlling that game, and that was a great feeling to have.’1 Muir had coached the 1987 Silver Ferns to World Cup victory, redeeming the 1983 loss to Australia in Singapore. In the words of their captain, Waimarama Taumaunu, ‘there was a number of us that had been to Singapore in 1983 and we’d lost and there was a strong determination that we weren’t going to do that again . . . losing was not something we turned up to do’.2 And 1987 player Leigh Gibbs (née Mills) highlighted the resilience of the team: ‘The collaboration was outstanding . . . We were demanding of each other . . . it was a reflection of how hard we wanted it and how hard we worked.’

Rivalry, resilience and redemption are the key themes that stand out in this book. Will to Win is, we hope, an insightful examination of the traditions, team culture, leadership and coaching styles that have evolved over the years through the eyes of some of the great Silver Ferns coaches and captains. Interviewees were asked to reflect upon how they heard about their selection, the team induction process, symbols, rites and rituals, values and beliefs. The emphasis on winning and the rivalry with Australia were also explored. They were also asked to highlight some of the external environmental factors — political, economic, sociocultural and technological — that have influenced the team’s development.

The first section reflects on personal perspectives on netball.

The second features interviews with captains and coaches over the period from 1960 to 1987. This era saw many significant changes and developments, such as the introduction of a set of international rules in 1961. In 1974 Lois Muir took over as coach, which began the most successful period in New Zealand netball’s international history. The third section covers the period between 1988 and 2001, which involved rebranding and commercialisation, with a far greater involvement from sponsors. The association changed its name in 1991 and became known as Netball New Zealand, while also adopting a new logo, the silver fern, and the national team became known as the Silver Ferns. The fourth section covers the period 2002–19, which saw the transitioning of netball to athlete-centred semi-professionalism, and even full professionalism for some of the elite players. The final section covers some history of the game in New Zealand, then reflects on some of the key themes of the interviews. 


A love of netball


Dr Lana McCarthy has spent the past 10 years in the sport, education and coaching sector in various roles, including as a registered health and physical education teacher, a netball development officer, a regional sports advisor, and as a lecturer in physical education.

She was a netball coach for a range of high-performance New Zealand netball teams, spanning secondary school, Under 17, Under 19 and Under 23 level. She undertook research for her master’s thesis with the Northern Mystics ANZ Championships netball team in 2014, on the development and importance of establishing team culture and leadership within sports teams. This led to a PhD investigating team culture, leadership and coaching styles, and the ways in which captains and coaches have constructed the culture within the Silver Ferns — the first study of its kind in New Zealand.

"Players need to be able to think for themselves, make split-second decisions and act upon these decisions with confidence and self-assurance, taking responsibility for their own actions."

Like thousands of other young netball players in New Zealand, I grew up with aspirations of one day playing for the Silver Ferns. I would watch my idol Bernice Mene and hope that one day I would play goal defence for the Silver Ferns just like her. I have countless childhood memories of watching televised games of the Ferns playing against the Australian Diamonds, with victory often impossible to predict until the final seconds. I also remember being glued to the television and witnessing momentous moments in the history of the game, such as the one-goal loss to Australia in the dying seconds of the 1999 World Netball Championships in Christchurch, or the epic moment when Temepara George (now Bailey) was sent off during the final of the World Cup in 2003 — and the Silver Ferns got their revenge by reclaiming the trophy, and the title as the world’s top-ranked netball team.

I began playing netball for Cornwall Street Primary School in Masterton. On cold winter Saturday mornings we played on the asphalt at the Colombo Road netball courts. The old blue pleated netball skirt came down to my knees as I ran around with my teammates, chasing and crowding the ball like bees around a honey pot. We would rotate positions every quarter and I would try my hardest to avoid the goal shoot and goal attack bib so I wouldn’t have the added pressure (and embarrassment!) of trying to get the ball through what seemed then to be a ridiculously tall hoop. These early experiences would result in netball for evermore becoming my sport of choice.

When I moved to Masterton Intermediate School, I was nervous about having to trial to be placed in a netball team. The pressure of competing against others was daunting, but this was just the first of many netball trials to come. I was the only Year 7 student to make the A1 team, the rest being Year 8s. This had not happened before, and so it was a very big deal! I also have fond memories of my classroom teacher, Mr Thompson, being so proud of me. Those intermediate years also solidified my preferred playing position: a defender at heart, goal defence was where I belonged on court.

At Wairarapa College I continued to play netball. I was the first Year 11 student to make the Senior A1 team, going on to captain that team, and I was named in the Wellington Regional Talent Identification Squad. I also progressed throughout the Wairarapa representative netball age-group teams, playing for the Under 15s and Under 17s.

In my childhood and adolescent playing years, the support and encouragement of my parents was an important factor in my continued involvement in netball. They made every effort to come to nearly all my games and representative tournaments, while juggling three kids who played three different winter sports. They both also played numerous roles: supporter, manager, taxi driver, counsellor, financial backer and first-aider.

In 2005 I moved to Palmerston North to study a bachelor of sport and exercise at Massey University (and then a graduate diploma to qualify as a physical education teacher). The level of performance and competition was much higher than in small-town Masterton, and I realised very quickly that I had to work twice as hard if I wanted to play regional netball at the top level.

On the recommendation of a former Masterton teammate who was playing for the club, I trialled for Feilding Netball Club, and was selected for one of the Premier One netball teams. I felt way out of my depth and intimidated, as some of my teammates were Western Flyers netball players, who went on to get ANZ contracts and even play for the Silver Ferns. However, I also thrived on being pushed harder than I had ever been pushed before, and it was during this period that I developed the most as a player. My coach was Yvette McCausland-Durie (later the Central Pulse and Silver Ferns assistant coach), who at the time was coaching the Western Flyers team. I hung off her every word. I was in awe of her knowledge of the game and truly admired the way she formed positive relationships with her players, while also expecting a high level of work and performance.

During my first year with Feilding Netball Club, I also made the Manawatū Under 19 representative team. For the next 10 years I continued to play Premier One netball; during that time, however, I suffered a serious injury, requiring two shoulder reconstructions followed by intensive strength and rehabilitation programmes. This meant spending a few months on the bench. I never returned to full strength as a player and realised that I could no longer compete at Premier One level. It was a turning point in my career in netball and I needed to re-evaluate my involvement in the game.

A role in administration was still an option, and so I joined the club committee. I was later voted chairperson (2017–18). Although my days of competing in Premier One netball were in the past, I still wanted to play, so I joined the Feilding Reserves team, a team of former Feilding Netball Club Premier One players, playing in the grade below.

In 2018, while completing my PhD, I was a member of the Massey University Tertiary netball team that competed at the New Zealand university games in Auckland. Having always been a staunch Feilding member, it felt odd to be playing for a team that I usually played and coached against. There were many good, hard battles! I came into that team as one of the oldest players, and some of my teammates were also my students. I have such positive memories of this experience, as I was welcomed with open arms and instantly made to feel a valuable member of the team. To my surprise, this ‘old girl’ secured a starting position and our team went on to compete in the final against Waikato University. Ahead by one goal in the closing seconds, we showed great composure. We played the ball around, maintaining possession as the clock wound down, and went on to win the New Zealand Tertiary National Netball title.

As a young netball player I was the recipient of the ‘traditional’ autocratic style of coaching. I was told what to do, how to perform it and when to do it in a game. My teammates and I relied heavily on the coach to provide the instructions and the game plan. When we deviated from this plan we would be thrown into a state of panic as we didn’t have the skills or capability to think for ourselves, make decisions and react to challenges on court.

This was how netball was taught in those days. There was limited knowledge of coaching styles or approaches. I had never heard of concepts such as Teaching Games for Understanding or an ‘empowering’ approach towards coaching. It wasn’t until I played under Yvette McCausland-Durie that I experienced a different style of coaching: one where players were included a lot more, were asked questions and were encouraged to think for themselves, and where the environment was competitive but you also felt at ease with your coach and your teammates.

As my playing career reached its peak, I turned my attention to coaching. I began in 2009 as coach of the Senior A1 netball team at Freyberg High School, then taking over as head coach of the Palmerston North Girls’ High School Senior A1 in 2015, and working as a Manawatū representative coach from 2010 to 2019, the assistant coach of the Central Zone Under 23 netball team and other various talent identification coaching programmes run by Netball Central. In 2019 I had my first year as head coach of the Feilding A1 — the team I had played for many years prior. Still competing in the Manawatū Premier One competition, we had set the goal as a team early on in the season that we were going to win. We achieved that goal and for the first time in 10 years Feilding A1 were the Premier One netball champions. That was one of my proudest coaching moments — not because we won, but because this group of players and management was truly the most united, positive, supportive and hard-working team that I had ever had the pleasure of coaching. I was also deeply honoured to have received the Manawatū 2019 Coach of the Year award.

I’m a strong believer in the importance of using an empowering approach when coaching players and teaching students. Players should be encouraged to learn independently and to want to seek improvement and development in their own performances. Players need to be able to think for themselves, make split-second decisions and act upon these decisions with confidence and self-assurance, and take responsibility for their own actions.

But while I favour the empowering approach, I have also come to recognise that there’s a place for both the autocratic and the empowering styles. My coaching approach has evolved over time into a more mixed coaching style, which aims to teach players to take responsibility for their performances and the decisions they make, and to learn and grow from these experiences, while also being given clear directions at times when particular technical and/or tactical aspects need to be reinforced.

My passion for netball and for coaching has been the foundation of my PhD research and now this book. I hope to have an impact on increasing the percentage of female high-performance coaches across various sporting codes in New Zealand.

I hope, too, to continue coaching for as long as possible. A coach never stops learning and must take every opportunity to grow, be open to new ideas, and be brave enough to take risks. The longer I’ve coached, particularly at the higher levels, the more I’ve come to realise how much is involved in the role. One of the key lessons I’ve learnt is that I don’t have to pretend to know everything. It’s more than okay to admit my weaknesses. It’s been far more beneficial for my own growth as a coach to admit the areas I needed further development in and to be confident, not ashamed,  to ask for help. When I realised this, I found myself a mentor, Nic Lush, who I continue to work with to this day. Nic has supported me, challenged me, encouraged and pushed me.

I am steadily making my way through the modules and practical observations for the Netball New Zealand Performance Coach qualification. Most recently this involved being observed by former Silver Ferns head coach Waimarama Taumaunu and, another of my childhood idols, former Silver Ferns captain and the best centre in the team’s history, Sandra Edge. This was both terrifying and exhilarating! 

Team culture and leadership are key themes in this book, but when I first began coaching, I had absolutely no idea what team culture was. I did  not know the impact it could have on a team or how to develop it. When

I completed my master’s thesis I spent time with the Northern Mystics ANZ franchise team; this was my first introduction to the concept, and my growing interest in its positive or negative impact on performance motivated me to investigate the links between team culture, leadership and winning at an elite level with the Silver Ferns.

As I learnt more about team culture, I recognised its absence from my own coaching. I began to adapt what I was learning to creating a positive team culture within the Palmerston North Girls’ High School Senior A1 netball team. Over the next four years the team’s rituals included player/parent barbecues, presentation of team uniforms and the formal announcement of the captain. Regular team bonding sessions were part of the training calendar, and involved pizza, laser-tag and tenpin bowling — anything outside of the ‘netball’ environment. Team values were discussed and agreed upon as a collective, and leadership groups were established.

I found that it takes time to establish a positive team culture and I learnt not to expect a drastic change over the course of one season. I also found that one idea may work better with one group of players than with another, and that a high turnover of players from year to year has an impact. I also learnt how culture reflects the whole team; it takes every single member contributing and playing a role to create a positive culture.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have developed long-lasting friendships with players, other coaches and teammates. Netball has given me the opportunity to travel around the country, both as a player and as a coach, and has also allowed me to meet and interview the legends of netball and many of my childhood heroes. Most importantly, I’ve developed a deep respect for those who volunteer their time to coach, and not just netball. I hope that these amazing people realise the significant impact that they have, not only on the sport itself, but also on the lives of their players.


Dr Farah Rangikoepa Palmer is Associate Dean Māori for the Massey Business School and a senior lecturer in the School of Management, Massey University. Her teaching and research focuses on sport sociology and leadership as they relate to diversity and team culture, with a particular emphasis on Māori and women. Farah played 35 tests and captained the New Zealand Black Ferns team to three consecutive Women’s Rugby World Cup wins in 1998, 2002 and 2006. In 1998 she was awarded Women’s Player of the Year by the NZ Rugby Football Union (NZRFU), and in 2005 she was awarded International Women’s Personality of the Year by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

Her work in sport and women’s rugby was acknowledged in 2007 when she became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), and she was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014.

Since retiring, Farah has continued in rugby in a variety of capacities, including a two-year stint coaching a women’s club team. In 2016 she became the first female director on the New Zealand Rugby Board and the chair of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board, and in 2018 she became a director of Sport NZ.4

"High-profile female athletes and teams in New Zealand are, whether they like it or not, role models, rangatira (leaders) and kaitiaki (guardians) for future generations."

Rugby may be romantically considered New Zealand’s national sport, but until recently that has only reflected the male part of our national obsession with team sports. Netball, on the other hand, has held the reputation of being New Zealand’s national team sport for women, with over 300,000 participants playing some version of the game. As a Sport NZ board member, I believe any sport that encourages girls and women to be active is a good thing. With elite teams like the Silver Ferns, and the high participation rate of women and girls in the sport nationwide, netball is in a great space to continue enabling women and girls to realise their potential and enhance their well-being in and through sport and active recreation.

Netball was and always will be my first love when it comes to organised sport. As a young child, I remember three generations of women making the 40-kilometre round trip from Piopio to the Te Kuiti netball courts to watch my mum play. It was a Saturday morning ritual we all looked forward to. I’d be running along the fence line close to the courts with Nana keeping an eye on me. Meanwhile, Mum played netball enthusiastically in her pleated skirt, tie-up bib and white Bata Bullets shoes. I soon followed in her footsteps and played for our local primary school. In the 1980s my netball initiation kicked into overdrive when Silver Ferns netball stars became my idols. Lois Muir was a household name; the dynamic defensive duo of Tracey Fear and Waimarama Taumaunu inspired me (I fancied myself as a defence player back then!); the flair and spatial awareness of Rita Fatialofa, and the energy and cheekiness of Sandra Edge, the ‘Margs’ — Margharet Matenga and Margaret Forsyth — blew me away; and we all felt the dream of wearing the silver fern was even closer when local girl Rhonda Wilcox (née Meads) donned the black dress for Aotearoa New Zealand. The dream came even closer when fellow Piopio-ite Jenny May Clarkson (née Coffin) also became a Silver Fern from 1997 to 2002.

For me the 1990s meant a change of city and a change of sport from the round ball to the oval ball. I didn’t fall out of love with netball, and always thought I’d return to the Bata Bullets someday. That day happened after retiring from rugby and having my first child. Netball seemed like the best way to get back into shape, and regain my sense of identity and feeling of camaraderie I got when playing for the Black Ferns. I also believed netball culture, with strong female engagement everywhere, would be supportive of a mum wanting to find her mojo again. Netball was a sport I could easily take my child to, where they’d be safe with many people on the sidelines volunteering to keep an eye on them. The games didn’t take too long, and everyone understood what it was like to squeeze in a bit of ‘me’ time with a young family. I continued to play netball through both my pregnancies, and enjoy playing to this day. Some days it is a challenge to put on the netball uniform and drag the kids out the door, but the competitive spirit kicks into gear when the whistle blows and it is all on! Afterwards I feel exhilarated, exhausted and satisfied. It is important for women of all shapes, sizes, circumstances and abilities to be active, connected and energised. Perhaps that competitive spirit that comes with playing at the elite level never leaves.

Team culture and leadership

The approach to culture and leadership in the Black Ferns team was not far removed from what I had learnt through playing netball as a child and teenager. It included having clear goals, respecting the wisdom of those who have skin in the game, pushing each other to be better, encouraging a collaborative style of leadership, appreciating that a division of labour is better for the team, and celebrating that diversity brings strength. The underlying values and attributes expected in high-performance sport are often similar, yet they may be demonstrated through different rituals, artefacts, language and symbols. I’m sure the Silver Ferns over the years have adapted these ‘visible’ signs of team culture and leadership to reflect their core values and attitudes. It is important to note, however, that with the korowai (cloak) of mana that comes with wearing any black uniform comes great responsibility. I am a strong believer that there is often a greater expectation for female athletes and sports teams to be the moral guardians of society. It comes with gendered expectations that are still dominant in New Zealand, which are not necessarily fair or right, but are the reality in many situations.

During my first season playing rugby, I ‘performed’ many of the netball rituals that had become instinctive to me and which perhaps are more traditionally aligned with behaviour considered to be fair play; behaviour such as clapping when the opposition scored, going out of my way to thank the umpire and opponents, helping out players who fall or injure themselves, helping out off the field with what needed to be prepared/packed away, and generally playing fair but hard. Some of these rituals were drummed out of me, but they were always there, dormant, waiting to be reignited. There were also technical skills I gained in netball that helped me in rugby and life in general, such as effective communication (both verbal and physical), spatial awareness and vision, embracing hard work and flair, and the ability to adapt to any situation or opponent. 

High-profile female athletes and teams in New Zealand are, whether they like it or not, role models, rangatira (leaders) and kaitiaki (guardians) for future generations. This leadership by example can add to an already high- pressure situation, and those who rise to that challenge, who are prepared for these expectations and are resilient can survive and increase their sphere of influence. I just hope we are wrapping enough support around our elite female athletes and teams, such as the Silver Ferns, to cope with this heightened expectation.

Times have changed a little with a move towards professionalism and greater acceptance of ‘gamesmanship’, but it is interesting to see how pockets of New Zealand athletes and teams are rejecting this ‘win at all costs’ mentality, in favour of values such as playing hard but fair, and respecting that everyone (including officials) gives 100 per cent. Yes, the game at the elite level is more physical these days (as is the case in most performance and power sports), the uniforms and rules have adapted, and competition for media attention and sponsorship is fiercer. Nonetheless, the underlying principles of teamwork, fun, the pursuit of excellence and continual improvement, resilience and determination remain relevant.


Betty Steffensen (née Pratt) has made a significant contribution to netball. In 1979 she received the New Zealand Service Medal from the national body in recognition of 25 years of service to the game (both regionally and nationally), and she was made a life member in 1991. She also received the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) in 1990, which recognises an individual’s voluntary service to the community, and the Suffrage Centennial Medal, awarded in 1993 to 500 women and men who had, by their virtues and talents, made a contribution to the rights of women in New Zealand. Betty was named vice-captain for the New Zealand team touring Australia in 1960, playing one test. She was the first Silver Fern to also become an international umpire (1973–74) and a manager of a Netball New Zealand team (1980–83).

"Team culture is vital. You can have a team, a moulded team of friends, who can outplay a team of individuals, so it’s the leadership that brings them all together."

I have been privileged to have had a lifetime of involvement in the most popular women’s sport in New Zealand. But I found it quite daunting to be asked to write a little about my experiences, the development of the game and the changes I have seen over the past 60 years. Why? Because these alone could fill a volume!

In 1960 I was stunned to be named as one of the national netball trialists. Our team had not even been told of the forthcoming tour to Australia. The trials were to be held 10 months after the announcement, and over those 10 months, trialists received scant information as to how best prepare themselves, and had no communication with either the coach or selectors.

On Queen’s Birthday Friday 1960, I travelled by train to Wellington for the trials. At their conclusion we were ushered into a little room where the announcement of the team was to take place. The Netball New Zealand president said, ‘We’ll announce the team now.’ I had married in 1958 and I was listening intently as the names were being read out in alphabetical order. When they had gone past Pratt I assumed I had missed out (I wasn’t surprised), but then they got to Steffensen — ‘Oh, that’s me!’ It was just one of those very special moments. I could not believe my ears. Who — me?

I was a country kid, only five feet and half an inch tall, playing as a goal attack/goal shooter, and one of two trialists selected from the second- grade tournament, while all of the other 19 trialists were selected from first grade! Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d be selected. It was only when we got home that Dad mentioned, ‘They said you were vice-captain,’ and I said, ‘Pardon?’ They did not name the captain or vice- captain when naming the team earlier. Dad had heard the radio bulletin, and he met me with a cheque for twenty pounds in his hand! (He had never given me money in his life before.)

Up until 1978 the Netball New Zealand (NNZ) executive was regionally based. This put enormous pressure on that association, which was also required to administer its own centre. Administration of sport throughout New Zealand was becoming more professional, and our Wellington-  based executive took a proposal to the council for a major change to the national running of netball. The proposal suggested having an executive of seven members, spread nationwide. People had been approached to fill the appropriate positions. The proposal was accepted and took effect immediately. So began the first of my 12 years as NNZ vice-president. In 1979 the first national Under 21 team was selected to tour Australia. Dale O’Neill (now Wortman) was the sole selector coach, and I was appointed manager.

It could never have been envisaged by our early pioneers that both men and women could make a career from administration, playing, umpiring and coaching from the game of netball in today’s world. I have been privileged to have had a lifetime as a volunteer in so many facets of the game at national level — namely, as Silver Fern No. 29 (1960), manager of the first Under 21 team (1979), Silver Ferns manager (1980–83), international umpire (1973–74), vice-president NNZ (1978–89), and convenor of the Life Membership Committee (1991–2012). 

Team culture and leadership

Team culture is vital. You can have a team, a moulded team of friends, who can outplay a team of individuals, so it’s the leadership that brings them all together. You would never consider that you were going to lose; it was ‘We are here to win’, and that desire was just as strong then as it is today against Australia. I have been privileged to work with a number of the Silver Fern captains and coaches who feature in this book. 

Lois Muir

My association with our netball legend Lois Muir began when we both represented New Zealand in the 1960 team. I was later one of Lois’s managers during her Silver Ferns coaching era, and we were both on the NNZ executive for many years. When on tour our party consisted of 12 players, a coach, a manager and an umpire. The manager’s role was to attend to all travel requirements, pair up players at accommodation, see to all personal needs of players and be the main liaison for the team. Should the players have injuries, the manager was responsible for setting up and accompanying players to appointments. I never made decisions without consultation with Lois. In my mind it was her team. She always kept buzzing, she was so enthusiastic. How she could keep that momentum going was unbelievable.

I was in awe of Lois as a coach. Because of her manner, commitment, enthusiasm and dedication, she had total respect from her players. This meant that she could demand what she wanted from them, but in such a way that the players clearly understood what was required of them — and they delivered! Her innovative ability to dream up fresh ideas that would challenge and extend her team (especially when on tour, and generally in the middle of the night with a coffee in her hand) was quite remarkable. Her desire to keep giving to the game, her enthusiasm and her drive as a coach never seemed to fade.

Lois was a hard taskmaster, but her players would do all they could for her, such was their respect. Lois would speak with the captain and the vice-captain before games — and she would speak very definitely to them if she felt there was something not right. I remember her saying to one of the defence, ‘Stop getting your head down. Get your head up and watch the ball; you don’t have to count the nits in your opponent’s hair!’

I well remember a spectator speaking to me at the conclusion of the first indoor test match played in 1982, in Palmerston North, against Australia. She was appalled at the manner in which Lois spoke to her players during the breaks: ‘Lois was extremely critical, rather than positive,’ she said, ‘it’s not the way to coach at all!’ I assured her that the players would die for Lois and fully understood what was required of them. I may add that we won that match in 1982, as well as many others in that era. It was not uncommon at an after-match discussion for players to ask Lois what she had meant about a ‘comment’ during a break, and for her to answer, ‘Did I really say that?’ amid much laughter.

Lyn Gunson

We had outstanding leadership models, and one of them was Lyn Gunson. She was an excellent captain of the Silver Ferns, and soon after my appointment as manager I was delighted to receive a letter from her saying, ‘Welcome to our team, but if you can’t laugh don’t come’! Lyn was a staunch and dynamic leader — very technical, and analytical in everything that she thought about the game, how she played the game and how she saw players as role models. She was serious but caring, and a great example, especially for the younger members of the team.

Leigh Gibbs

Leigh was a great team player in that 1981–83 team. Her effort, attitude, determination and dedication were so evident in whatever she did. Her disappointment in losing the World Tournament in Singapore in 1983 has stayed with me to this day. Later in the day, after we lost the final, I caught up with her lying on her bed. Though she was devastated, she said to me, ‘I’m going to come back in four years’ time and we will win the Worlds.’ True to her word, she was back, but as captain — and yes, they did win! But hers was not just a natural skill: it was absolute hard work, effort and desire; she was another amazing role model.

The people who brought netball to New Zealand and spread it through the country were truly committed enthusiasts. Ever since then, we have been extremely blessed to have incredibly capable role models in all facets of the game. It is hard to imagine that the game of netball as we know it today has developed from such small beginnings. This book is important as it provides a record of some of the legends of the game over the past 60 years, and their insights into the team culture and leadership of the team will be particularly valuable for future players and coaches to enhance the possibility of winning.