Go Girls: Kiwi Sportswomen are world-beaters

I cannot think of any time when women’s sport in New Zealand has been as strong as it is now.
In netball, rugby, sevens, kayaking and rowing, Kiwi women are world-beaters.

What makes it so special in netball and sevens is the joyous sense of unity which blends brilliant individuals into an indomitable team.

Only one point separated the Silver Ferns from the Australian Diamonds at the World Cup final thriller in Liverpool last year. But it was beautiful to behold with the three veteran fossils Maria Folau, Casey Kopu and Laura Langman capping outstanding careers with a world crown.

There were other stars too, notably lively goal keep Jane Watson and goal-attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio whose immaculate shooting sometimes even surpassed that of the brilliant Folau.

The Sky television documentary This Is Pure, covering the action and articulate comments from the happy players and champion coach Noeline Taurua, rates among the best I have seen.

The Silver Ferns should win both the team and supreme prizes at the Halberg Awards when the inspirational Taurua should also be a strong candidate for the coach award.

Meanwhile the team continues to shine in England under the captaincy of the popular Ekenasio despite the absence of the three fossils.

Maia Wilson has done exceptionally well in taking her chance following the retirement of Folau who was expected to leave a huge hole.

There is also much to admire about the Black Ferns Sevens who continued their winning habit by claiming the Hamilton Sevens title when beating Canada 24-7 last Sunday.

Possessed of some strong tacklers, Canada are no pushovers. However they couldn’t cope with the pace and skill of the New Zealanders who have welcomed back Sarah Hirini and Michaela Boyd after long lay-offs because of injuries.

The speedy Boyd looked like she’d never been away when she scored twice in the final with Niall Williams and Stacey Fluhler (nee Waaka) also notching tries.

Having trounced both England and China 40-7 within 14 minutes, they then beat Fiji 38-21 and France 19-7.

In the absence of Hirini, Boyd and the still unavailable Portia Woodman, brilliant halfback Tyla Nathan-Wong had led the team superbly while the smiling, side-stepping Fluhler was the try-scoring star opponents failed to contain.

Kelly Brazier, the veteran blonde who scored the last second winning try against Australia at the 2016 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, is another who consistently performs outstandingly.

The All Blacks Sevens also maintained their winning streak  at Hamilton when overcoming Wales, Scotland and the formidable Americans before sneaking home 17-14 against an improving Australia.

Having done well to make the final, France trailed 12-5 at half-time only to see the All Blacks add a further three tries with captain Scott Curry completing his hat-trick.

Some interesting facts about the growth in women’s rugby were released in an excellent article written by LockerRoom editor Suzanne McFadden last year.

In 2018 an extra six million women joined World Rugby’s fan base and 40 per cent of the total 400 million were female.

These figures are not reflected in crowd numbers attending women’s matches compared with those for men. However the standard has risen remarkably and deserves greater support. For the second year running more girls had got into playing rugby than boys.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer