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Merryn Anderson

Silver Ferns search for the elusive repeat

The Silver Ferns were victorious at the 2019 Netball World Cup, and have a big challenge ahead of them for this year's edition. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

The 2023 Netball World Cup kicks off in Cape Town tomorrow, with the Silver Ferns taking on Trinidad and Tobago. Merryn Anderson checks out their possible route to the final. 

No Kiwi sports fan will ever forget Laura Langman jumping for joy while being piled on by Silver Ferns teammates in Liverpool, or the tears streaming down coach Dame Noeline Taurua’s face at the Netball World Cup medal ceremony.  

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since the Silver Ferns completed the ultimate comeback to win the 2019 World Cup, after hitting their lowest ebb at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.  

That was New Zealand’s fifth world title, and their first since 2003. But the Ferns have never won back-to-back World Cups and have tough competition to beat in Cape Town. Taurua guides the side again and hasn’t yet confirmed whether this will be her final World Cup in charge.  

The Silver Ferns’ last pinnacle event was the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last August, where they won a bronze medal over England, behind Australia (gold) and Jamaica (silver). 

*A Silver Ferns squad to win the Netball World Cup
*The hunt for the 100% goal shoot

Taurua admitted it was a tricky job choosing 12 players, and three travelling reserves, for this latest tournament. Six of the side return from the victorious 2019 team - now-captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Gina Crampton, Karin Burger, Phoenix Karaka and Jane Watson.  

Crampton is the most experienced player, the wing attack amassing 63 caps since her debut in 2016. Maddy Gordon has the fewest caps, attending her first pinnacle event in Cape Town with just six Ferns' tests under her belt.  

The Ferns open their campaign on Friday evening NZT, against Trinidad and Tobago, who are ranked 11th in the world. When the two teams last met at the Commonwealth Games, the Ferns easily came out on top, 80-24.  

The Caribbean nation holds the unique honour of being the only team except for New Zealand or Australia to win a Netball World Cup, when it was a three-way tie in 1979 – in the days before the tournament had finals play-offs. 

It should be a comfortable win for the Ferns, who are likely to play four games in four days, so we may see them resting and rotating players against the lower-ranked teams. But a strong start would definitely lift confidence and morale, and Taurua isn’t the type to underestimate any opponent. 

 The 2023 Silver Ferns Netball World Cup team. 

Their second opponent is Uganda (world No.8) on Saturday evening. Their last meeting was also at the Commonwealth Games, where it was a lot tighter - the Kiwis holding on for a 53-40 win. They may need all players firing to ensure they stay top of the table.  

Keep an eye out for 2.01m Mary Cholhok Nuba in the Ugandan shooting circle – expect 1.92m Kelly Jury to be at goal keep for the Ferns to shut her down.  

In a tight turnaround, the Ferns then play Singapore on Sunday. The last time the two teams met was at the last World Cup, where NZ used all 12 squad members and won comfortably, 89–21.  

From there, it’s likely the Ferns’ next three opponents would be Wales, South Africa and Jamaica in crossover play.  

New Zealand’s last encounter with Wales was at the 2018 Commonwealth Games - the tournament Kiwi fans like to forget. That game was one of few bright spots for the Ferns, winning 70-44. Wales were eighth at the 2022 Games, losing to Malawi in their final match.  

The Ferns will finally have a few days of rest before playing South Africa, who might be their first real challenge. The Kiwis last faced the Proteas in January, at the Quad Series, where they won 61-41, but some of South Africa’s star players are returning for the World Cup after missing key games over the past few years.  

With the additions of shooter Lenize Potgieter and defender Karla Pretorius, the Proteas are likely to be much improved and boosted by their home advantage.  

The Silver Ferns will face a tough opponent in Jamaica before their semifinal. Photo: Getty Images

The Kiwis' last opponent before the semifinals stage should be Jamaica, Commonwealth Games silver medallists. The Sunshine Girls visited New Zealand in September, but due to a range of issues, couldn’t field a full-strength team. 

Jamaica beat New Zealand comfortably at the Birmingham Games, winning their semi-final, 67-51, consigning the Ferns to the bronze medal match. The Ferns struggled to find an answer to their aerial play and strength, especially against Jhaniele Fowler, one of the world’s best goal shooters.  

A slow start there hurt the Kiwis, but they adapted and won the final quarter. So if they find the answers to combat the Jamaican style of play early, it will be a tight battle, and one the Ferns could win.  

One loss won’t rule New Zealand out - it would just give them a trickier route to the finals. So the Jamaica game isn’t a must-win. But with a high chance of facing either Australia or England in the semis, neither opponent is an easy-beat, so every win will go a long way in terms of confidence and game fitness.  

New Zealand lost to Australia twice this year, and have beaten England once. But in the October Constellation Cup, the Kiwis managed to top their trans-Tasman rivals twice at home, so Kiwi fans can be consoled by the fact they can be beaten.  

The bronze medal match will be at 2am on 7 August, followed by the gold medal match at 4am, so not much sleep for Kiwi fans either way. All Netball World Cup games are live on Sky Sport, with additional coverage on Prime. 

*Silver Ferns schedule (all in NZT)  

vs Trinidad and Tobago, Fri 28 July, 7pm 

vs Uganda, Sat 29 July, 7pm 

vs Singapore, Sun 30 July, 9pm  

Likely matches:  

vs Wales, Mon 31 July, 9pm 

vs South Africa, Thu 3 August, 4am 

vs Jamaica, Thu 3 August, 7pm 


Sat August 5, 9pm and Sun 6, 2am 


Mon August 6, 2am and 4am 

The 2023 Netball World Cup Silver Ferns team:  

Grace Nweke (21 caps) 1st World Cup  

Maia Wilson (38 caps) 1st World Cup 

Ameliaranne Ekenasio (57 caps) 2nd World Cup 

Te Paea Selby-Rickit (59 caps) 2nd World Cup

Gina Crampton (63 caps) 2nd World Cup

Whitney Souness (30 caps) 1st World Cup

Maddy Gordon (6 caps) 1st World Cup

Kate Heffernan (15 caps) 1st World Cup

Karin Burger (37 caps) 2nd World Cup

Phoenix Karaka (50 caps) 3rd World Cup

Jane Watson (56 caps) 2nd World Cup

Kelly Jury (46 caps) 1st World Cup

Reserves: Tiana Metuarau (6 caps), Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (3 caps), Sulu Fitzpatrick (27 caps)

Likely Top Four: 

Australia: World ranking 1; Coach: Stacey Marinkovich

New Zealand: World ranking 2; Coach: Dame Noeline Taurua

England: World ranking 3; Coach: Jess Thirlby

Jamaica: World ranking 4; Coach: Connie Francis

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