One year since the 2019 Netball World Cup – Part 2
The PURE ethos, the gut busting training camps and the Kiwi strategies to beat the world – Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua and assistant Deb Fuller discuss the campaign that put New Zealand back on top of world netball.
It took six months for the Silver Ferns to establish and embed their PURE ethos.
The mantra of P – play to win; U – united, we are ready; R – a ruthless mindset; E – play an explosive game was at the foundation of a Netball World Cup campaign which saw the Silver Ferns bring home the spoils against the odds.
For coach Dame Noeline Taurua, PURE set the criteria for her players to live by – both on and off the court and was about “binding our team together”.
Developing the right culture was a key component on their journey to Liverpool and Taurua and assistant coach, Deb Fuller, have seen a major shift in mindset from the New Zealand team and its national body.
“We’ve come a long way,” Taurua said.
The rags to riches story is now a part of New Zealand netball folklore as the Silver Ferns looked to restore pride in their game following the soul-destroying 2018 Commonwealth Games when they returned home without a medal.
Changes at the top were made with Taurua taking over as head coach and Fuller stepping in as her assistant.
Their appointments marked the start of a remarkable 11-month ride right to the top of world netball – the stops along way weren’t always easy and the path was at times bumpy, but the meticulous planning meant the destination was always within reach.
From a string of defeats early on, to the team selection, a gruelling team camp, and an historic Cadbury Netball Series to pool play at the Netball World Cup, a semi-final against a confident host and a final with a long-time trans-Tasman rival – this PURE campaign had it all.
Taurua remembers the feeling of the early losses in the Netball Quad Series and Constellation Cup, in 2018, not long after she’d picked up the reins – a tough process but key in putting their “stake in the ground.”
“I found it quite hard and never lost so much in my life if I’m going to be honest,” she said.
“We just weren’t ready in regards to being able to execute and deliver the game plan that I wanted to out on court.”
But it was the Silver Ferns starting point and from there Taurua slowly put in place the Kiwi strategies she would play at the Netball World Cup.
The coaches wanted to hone in what worked well for New Zealanders, the zone defence an obvious strength but Taurua needed variation and the players who could execute a plan B or plan C without skipping a beat.
“The challenge was how you can open their minds and capability of doing something different,” she said.
“They had to learn it, understand it and then actually execute it so we had to go through those stages to get out the other end.”
Then there was the gruelling training camp at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast in Australia which proved another crucial date where Taurua wanted to “know their (training) numbers” and how far she could push her players.
Fuller likened the six-day camp to the test of a race car.
“We were all testing the race car and crashing it a few times and seeing what it could do,” she said.
“It was significant in that we needed to see what people could do under pressure.”
The athletes were put under mental, physical and emotional stress as the coaching team left no stone unturned.
They headed home with a finely tuned machine.
Another pivotal point was the Cadbury Netball Series where history was made when the Silver Ferns faced the New Zealand men’s team in a match televised live and played in front of a crowd.
It was another building block to add to the Sunshine Coast camp and for Taurua it was an opportunity to see just how far the Ferns had come when they tackled an opponent bigger and stronger than them.
They lost both matches to the men but gained so much more in terms of confidence and knowing they could compete against a physically imposing side.
“It was the shift in our mindset and readiness to actually perform. It was priceless, Taurua said of the series.
Arriving in Liverpool there was a sense of calm from those in charge who knew the Ferns were as prepared as they could be.
“We were very relaxed because there was no stress on how we needed to play – that was well entrenched,” Fuller said.
The Silver Ferns put teams on notice when they fought back against the World No. 1 Australian side in the pool play match, losing by just one goal.
But it was the match-up against the England Roses that Taurua had targeted. The Commonwealth Games gold medallists were confident and were playing in front of a fervent home crowd, hopeful of making the Netball World Cup final for the first time.
“Basically it was our grand final,” the Silver Ferns head coach said.
Lose this game and the journey was over.
The Silver Ferns took the crowd out of the equation early on, with a number of defensive turnovers, and from there showed composure when the Roses surged late in the game, as many had expected.
It was the knowledge that they had done the work and had the game plan in the bag that gave the Kiwis their poise in a tense semi final, the two-goal victory setting up the “big dance” against their trans-Tasman rivals.
Back home there were doubts whether the Silver Ferns could back up for their shot at the world title but there was a sense of calm heading into the final as Taurua acknowledged there was no more that could be done.
“We had done everything possible to get to this stage,” she said.
It was time for her players to “relish the moment”. It was 59 minutes and 56 seconds into a typcially close match against Australia before Taurua could relish her moment.
Even then, when the final whistles confirmed the Silver Ferns triumph it was more of a “job done” moment for the head coach.
The emotion didn’t spill over for Taurua until she climbed on top of the dais, her arms around the ‘fossils’, and heard the strains of God Defend New Zealand ring out.
“The shift that we’d made as individuals and the experience that we had in 11 months – it couldn’t have finished in a better way,” she said.
“It was a bit of a fairytale really.”
It was PURE delight.