How fitting Silver Ferns stalwarts Laura Langman, Maria Folau, Casey Kopua and Katrina Rore will bow out of international netball as reigning world champions having clinched the title 52-51 against Australia in Liverpool on Monday.
It may not be this year for all of them but it certainly will be before the next world championship in four year years time.
Each has been a special player, the dynamic Langman, aged 33, our best centre since Sandra Edge after converting from wing defence.
Although she made some uncharacteristic misses in the final before goaling 28 of 35 attempts, the unflappable Folau, 32, remains a beautiful shooter from any distance within the circle.
Kopua (nee Williams), 34, who came to fame as a Magic teenager alongside Langman and developed under current Ferns coach Noeline Taurua, no longer has the same spring-heeled elevation after suffering patella tendon and ankle ligaments injuries. But she retains her fierce competiveness and sharp court brain, as does Rore who effortlessly made the switch from goal keep to wing defence.
Interestingly two of the stars within a great team effort were goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio and goal keep Jane Watson while wing attack Gina Crampton fed the circle nicely.
Renowned for her ability to feed her goal shoots with good passes, Ekenasio’s own goal scoring success soared throughout this tournament, relieving pressure on the brilliant Folau.
Although dwarfed by some of her opponents, lively goal keep Watson made many outstanding interceptions and deflections to deny England and Australia goals in a nail-biting semi-final and final won by two and one-point respectively.
Those results tell an accurate tale of a hard-fought competition in which hosts England finished third ahead of South Africa for bronze medal honours.
That fourth ranked New Zealand could strike gold after the disappointment of the last Commonwealth Games in which they failed to medal says much for their skill and courage and the vision of coach Taurua whose Sunshine Lightning has won the last two Australian Super Netball League titles.
Langman is a key member of that team and it was Taurau who successfully sought she be given dispensation to return to the Silver Ferns after Netball NZ had made her ineligible.
That might work for rugby’s All Blacks where there is so much depth, but the Silver Ferns need their best no matter where they live.
Meanwhile the All Blacks know they face a severe test against South Africa in Wellington on Saturday after their error ridden 20-16 scare against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Hopefully they will find room for both Ardie Savea and Sam Cane alongside captain Kieran Read among the loose forwards.
Both were outstanding against the Pumas with Savea’s pace off the back of the scrum giving him an attacking sharpness that the still gifted Read no longer has.
It was also good to see Ngani Laumape continue his try-scoring habit in a tight test in which Brodie Retallick’s 50m intercept runaway was the only other try the All Blacks managed against an impressive defence.
With Sevu Reece the only Crusader to play against the Pumas, the availability of the others should do much to strengthen the team against a Springboks side that walloped the Wallabies 35-17 despite resting many of their best.
Hence expect a titanic battle between two great rivals.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer