From the local netball court to World Cup winning Silver Ferns

The Silver Ferns journey to holding up the Netball World Cup 2019 trophy was one of sweat, friendship, and many pairs of netball shoes along the way. ASICS sat down with Casey Kopua, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, and Debbie Fuller in the leadup to the biggest tournament of their sport to hear about some of the experiences that led them to this moment.

For most, the journey started at a netball court on a wintery Saturday morning in New Zealand supported by family on the sidelines. With a dream of donning the black dress and wearing the silver fern one day, they dedicated countless hours to being their best. When that moment did first-come, it was a day they’ll never forget.

Getting the call

“For me, it was a Wednesday night in 2005 and I was in my flat in Hamilton. I initially thought Ruth [Aitken, Former Coach] was pulling a prank on me. I got off the phone and called my parents straight away who also thought it was a joke because I was so young,” remembers Casey Kopua (Silver Fern #135).

The realisation of those childhood dreams about to come true was hugely emotional says Kopua. When the former Silver Fern captain reached her parents she remembers crying with excitement and being somewhat amazed. She couldn’t quite believe she was going to be a Silver Fern.

For shooter Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Silver Fern #161), finding out she had made the Silver Ferns after returning to her room during a 2016 camp to find a congratulatory letter on her bed was surreal.

MAKING THEIR SILVER FERNS DEBUT

“I come from a sporty family so making the national team meant a lot to me and my family,” says Selby-Rickit. “I remember on my debut against England in Auckland during the Quad Series how nervous I was. Lots of my family members were texting me afterwards saying how nervous I looked!”

Assistant Coach Debbie Fuller (Silver Fern #109) who debuted alongside her long-time friend and Head Coach Noeline Taurua (Silver Fern #108) against Auckland in England in 1993 will always remember when former coach Leigh Gibbs told her she was going to be a Silver Fern.

“It’s a deep meaning to be a Silver Fern for me. I remember when I ran out on court the first time saying to myself this is really happening. It’s time to show what I’ve got,” says Fuller.

Like Kopua and Selby-Rickit, for Fuller being a Silver Fern didn’t just bring a sense of personal achievement. Being a Silver Fern meant so much to their families as well.

“We grew up around the Canterbury Netball Courts with Mum and Dad always supporting us. Me being a Silver Fern brought a lot of pride for my sporting family,” reflects Fuller. 

Facing the new level of intensity

For the players, the realisation of becoming a Silver Fern was brought sharply back to reality with the huge step up in the intensity of international netball.

Selby-Rickit says that the intensity of playing on the international stage is something she finds hard to explain. “International netball is so fast, so intense and everyone is just so big and strong. When you’re on court your lungs are burning, everything hurts but you know you’ve got a job to do.”

“When you’re connected as a team, and everything comes off that you’ve been working on, it’s such a great feeling,” says Selby-Rickit.

When Kopua was handed her bib on debut against Barbados in Jamaica she initially thought, “Is it really my turn?”

There was no time to ponder on those thoughts she says because in international netball there’s just so much going on – both on court and with the noise of the crowd. “You’re trying to put your body on the line with the passion for the dress but also know you’ve got a job to do.”

As a coach Fuller says the intensity of international netball is something she thrives upon. For Fuller, she feels it’s a privilege to coach under pressure with such a massive responsibility.

Constellation Cup: The next opportunity for a rematch

With the job done in Liverpool the Ferns have returned back to their home bases. The squad will soon wear the beloved black dress in October for the Constellation Cup. They’ll once again face their Australian rivals who are no-doubt ready to seek redemption in this four-match series. The rivals will battle it out in Christchurch, Auckland, Sydney, and the final test will be in Perth.

The World Championship winning team will come together in an attempt to bring home the Cup which Australia currently holds. They’ll be without the inspirational Kopua who has officially hung up her Silver Fern netball shoes after a 17-year career. However, the Silver Ferns legacy will continue to inspire the next generation of kiwis currently playing at their local courts around New Zealand.