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Merryn Anderson

Return of the Ferns

The Silver Ferns feature in a bumper weekend of sport for wāhine in Aotearoa. Photo: Getty Images

Football, netball, cricket and rugby - it's all on for Kiwi women's sports teams across the globe this weekend. Merryn Anderson gives the lowdown on all the Ferns action.

Did you think, with the wave of World Cups receding from our shores, women's sport was about to take a back seat? Think again. 

There are still plenty of opportunities to support our women’s sport teams, with the return of four of the Ferns teams in a bumper weekend of sport.

The Football Ferns play their first game since their FIFA World Cup journey finished in July, playing two friendly matches against Chile - the first kicking off in Santiago at 11am on Sunday (NZ time).

Then the Silver Ferns begin their Taini Jamison series against the England Roses - the first game in the three-match series played in Christchurch, with the first centre pass at 4pm. 

And for the night owls and cricket fanatics out there, the White Ferns start their tour of South Africa with their first ODI at 9pm. 

For rugby fans, there’s still one week to wait until the Black Ferns play at home, but the Black Ferns XV, made up of rising rugby stars, will play Samoa's Manusina at Pukekohe on Saturday at 4.30pm (live on Sky Sport 1). Grace Brooker will lead the team, which features two other players who have Black Ferns caps. 

LockerRoom has all you need to know ahead of the busy weekend of women's sport.

Football Ferns 

The Football Ferns changed the perception of women’s football in Aotearoa when 42,137 fans packed out Eden Park to see the team win their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup game back in July.

The 1-0 win over Norway ultimately wasn’t enough to take them through the group stage, but it captured a nation, with over one million Kiwis tuning into television coverage of the match, and creating a fervour that grew during the tournament. 

To show just how much of an impact the World Cup had Downunder, the Australian Matildas' first home game since they made the semifinals of the World Cup - against the Philippines - has been moved from a stadium seating 20,000 to Optus Stadium, capacity 60,000.

Unfortunately, Kiwi football fans won’t have the same opportunity - the Football Ferns are playing two games against Chile in South America, one of which will be played behind closed doors and not broadcast (at the request of the Chilean team). 

However, Kiwi fans can tune into the first game between NZ and Chile, at 11am on Sunday. 

Jacqui Hand had a standout World Cup for the Ferns, and will be looking to continue that form. Photo: Getty Images

The Football Ferns remain ranked 26th after the World Cup, and Chile - who didn’t qualify - sit at 41st, so the Ferns are favourites for this battle. 

Most of the key players for the Ferns return, including veterans Ali Riley, Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen, while Ria Percival sits this tour out. 

The team will be aiming to continue their winning momentum from the first game of the World Cup, and not just treating these games as a chance to test things out. 

Having gone a long period (almost five months) without scoring, and an even longer period without a win (10 months) last year, the Ferns won’t want to wait that long for their next goal and win since the World Cup. 

Player to watch: Jacqui Hand

Hand set up the Ferns’ only goal of the World Cup - speeding down the touchline, then crossing to Hannah Wilkinson with pinpoint accuracy. The 24-year-old came close to scoring multiple times, with one disallowed goal against the Philippines breaking Kiwi hearts. 

She’ll be dangerous for the Football Ferns in front of goal this weekend. The forward will travel from Finland, where she now plays with Åland United in Finland’s top league. 

Silver Ferns

For the first time in their history, the Silver Ferns missed out on a medal at last month's Netball World Cup, finishing fourth. The loss of goal shoot Grace Nweke rattled the team, and with Nweke still recovering from her knee injury, young shooter Amelia Walmsley has a chance to make her mark in this series against England.

Former Silver Ferns captain Julie Seymour, part of the coaching team for this series, says the team aren’t reflecting too much on the World Cup, and more thinking about moving forward. 

“Players are obviously really disappointed from the performance at the World Cup and really eager to get out there on court and show that as Silver Ferns, we’re capable of more," she says. 

“We can lift up and rise and improve. And you can really feel that desire within the group, wanting to put a better product out there.” 

The Ferns are taking on a largely inexperienced England Roses side, much to the disappointment of Kiwi fans. None of the Roses squad who competed at the World Cup (finishing second) are playing in this series. 

Seymour says the side hasn’t really talked too much about their opposition yet. “It’s very much been about us, and what we need to do out on court,” she says. 

“It really doesn’t matter who we play against, there’s a certain style the Ferns want to play, and a certain standard that they want to play at." 

Tiana Metuarau (left), Amelia Walmsley (third from left) and Phoenix Karaka (right) will all put the black dress on against England. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

Despite the inexperience of the England side, the Ferns have still selected their top players. Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit sit out of this series, and Nweke continues her rehab, so World Cup travelling reserves Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Tiana Metuarau join Walmsley as the new additions. 

Seymour, also coach of the New Zealand U21s, says fans may see something new out on court for the Ferns. “And maybe some new people who haven’t had as much international experience will have an opportunity to be out there as well,” she says.

A midcourt legend, Seymour has been working with the middies on being efficient with their movements, and getting the ball into the Ferns shooters as smoothly and quickly as possible. “We’ve been working on being really punchy and direct and looking in, looking in early. Obviously the less you need to pass around the ball, the less opportunity there is to lose it.” 

Player to watch: Phoenix Karaka

A member of the Silver Ferns for almost 10 years, Karaka had a standout season with the Northern Mystics, and carried that form into the Ferns this year. The team has a wealth of defensive options, but Karaka’s ability to read the game and play well alongside any defensive partner help her stand out. 

White Ferns

Cricket fans will be desperate to see the White Ferns back in action, their only games over the Kiwi winter being a rain-affected tour of Sri Lanka in June and July. 

The team will play three ODIs and five T20s against South Africa across September and October before returning home for the summer to play Pakistan and England. 

They’ve named a strong squad, filled with players who spent the winter in overseas competitions, like Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates and Melie Kerr. 

South Africa can be inconsistent, beating New Zealand by 65 runs in their most recent meeting, at the T20 World Cup in February, but had a few poor performances in their tour of Pakistan this month. 

The White Ferns have also experienced a few heavy losses this year, and will need their senior players to keep calm in order to get runs on the board, and avoid batting collapses. 

Kate Anderson's move to Canterbury for cricket paid off this year, rewarded with a White Ferns contract. 

Player to watch: Kate Anderson

Anderson received a White Ferns contract for the first time this year, after a standout Kiwi summer, where she was named women’s domestic player of the year. 

She was ruled out of the Sri Lanka tour with a finger injury, so will be eager to make her mark in her first outing with the Ferns. Likely to be utilised most as a batter, Anderson could also be a handy bowler for the team. 

*Weekend schedule: Black Ferns XV vs Samoa, Sat 4.30pm, Sky Sport 1; Football Ferns vs Chile, Sun 11am, FIFA+; Silver Ferns vs England Roses, Sun 3.30pm (Sky Sport 1 & free-to-air on Sky Open); White Ferns vs South Africa, Sun 8.45pm, Sky Sport 2. 

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