OPINION: Silver Ferns – the greatest all-star team

Picking the best all-time Silver Ferns netball team is an intriguing exercise which is bound to be fiercely debated. Although I don’t claim expertise on the subject, I offer my starting seven:

Irene van Dyk (GS), Maria Folau (GA), Temepara Bailey (WA), Sandra Edge (C), Rita Fatialofa (WD), Bernice Mene ( GD), Casey Kopua (GK).

For accuracy no one can beat van Dyk and Folau though the clever court work of Joan Harnett and Margaret Forsyth made both incredibly talented goal attacks. Neither, however, could shoot the long distance goals Folau does.

In the late 1960s I saw Canterbury’s Harnett intercept on the halfway, twist a full turn while airborne and send a perfect pass to Colleen McMaster under the goal before her feet touched the ground.

The accurate McMaster slotted the goal as the Judy Blair captained Canterbury went on to beat a strong Australian national team by 15 points. Harnett was an attractive superstar who moved with the grace of a ballet dancer.

Irene Van Dyke takes on the Aussies. Photo Netball Australia

With her pleasant personality and incredible shooting prowess, former South African representative van Dyk’s decision to migrate was a massive boost for New Zealand netball.

Unlike Folau, she was not a long range shooter, but was very good at holding her ground and slotting goals with pinpoint accuracy near the posts.

Although she lacked height, former television Dancing with the Stars winner, Bailey was a quick and clever player who fed her goal circle with lovely passes. She still does although at 43 she doesn’t have the speed and stamina she once did.

Her nearest challenger would be the fiercely competitive Laura Langman who remains super fit.

Whereas Bailey can play wing attack and centre with equal ability, Langman can do both as well as wing defence where she made her debut for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic with another outstanding teenager in Casey Williams, now Kopua.

There have been some very good centres but none to compare with the speedy Sandra Edge (nee Mallett) who was an absolute champion at making spectacular intercepts and feeding team-mates.

Likewise there have been many fine wing defences but none as tough as Rita Fatialofa who had surprising speed for such a big woman. Otago’s Lesley Rumball and Langman also shone in that position.

Bernice Mene had great genes, being the daughter of Canterbury decathlon champion Mene Mene and former NZ women’s javelin champion and record-holder Sally Flynn.
An intelligent goal defence who married Black Caps cricketer Dion Nash, she read the game beautifully when making intercepts at goal defence.

The same could be said for Kopua whose fierce determination, spring-heeled leaps and superb timing made her the perfect goal keep when at her peak.

Mene’s strongest challenge for the goal defence berth would be Waimarama Taumaunu who brought the ball up the court strongly and became an outstanding Silver Ferns netball coach.

Ameliaranne Ekenasi and brilliant 19-year-old Aliyah Dunn are Silver Ferns shooter who combine beautifully for the Central Pulse.

Dunn had a 100 per cent success rate in one game when slotting over 30 goals and regularly goes beyond 90 per cent.

Meanwhile watch out for amazing Grace Nweke who, at age 17 and 1.93m tall, has a vertical leap that has countered the best efforts of such experienced defenders as Kopua and Katrina Rore to contain her.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author