Nweke shooting for repeat World Cup success

Goal Shooter, Grace Nweke of New Zealand in action at the 2023 Quad Series.

Picture Credit: Skhu Nkomphela

Nweke shooting for repeat World Cup success

The last time Grace Nweke visited Cape Town, she secured the Best Shooter and Player of the Series accolades at the 2023 Quad Series which featured New Zealand, Australia, England, and South Africa.

Now the young Silver Ferns goal shooter is eager to put in a similar performance when she returns to South Africa for the Vitality Netball World Cup 2023 next month.

“I didn’t realise I was the top scorer,” admitted Nweke.

“I guess I just like to get out there and play. I’m grateful to be given that opportunity on the court to be able to put up that many goals.

“I’m just looking forward to another opportunity to play in Cape Town and whatever the result is, grateful to be there and ready to work hard.”

This will be the 21-year-old’s first Netball World Cup, having made her international debut against England in 2021.

“I haven’t really taken in how awesome it is to be part of the Netball World Cup. It’s the pinnacle of our sport so I’m very excited. There are obviously a lot of nerves involved with that but I’m just really grateful to be given this opportunity.”

At 6 ft 3, Nweke is hard to miss in the shooting circle, and she’s certainly made her presence felt in the last year, having been named Silver Ferns Player of the Year for 2022.

Each time she takes to the court, Nweke remains acutely aware of the part she plays in representing both her Nigerian heritage and being a strong Black female role model, while also relishing the opportunity to proudly wear the colours of New Zealand.

“My Nigerian heritage is really important to me.

“That’s who I am and where I’m from. I’m really proud to be a New Zealander as well and have that kind of migration, my parents both being Nigerian and me being born in New Zealand.

“I’m really proud to represent both sides of, I guess, who I am and my culture, especially in Africa and being able to do that during a World Cup.”

While New Zealand are heading into the tournament as defending champions, having edged Australia by just one goal in the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 final, Nweke says that mantle doesn’t come with added pressure.

“I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. I’d say it’s more of a driver – to want to work hard. But as a completely new team [to the one] who did that job four years ago, it’s more exciting to be able to show what we’ve got in our current playing group.

“So it’s definitely more inspirational than it is pressure.”

As for the prospect of potentially meeting 11-time champions Australia in the final again, Nweke added: “To beat Aussie again I think we just need to do what we do best. “I think we need to focus on our own game plan as opposed to the opposition so I think if we work on our structures and the game plan that we’re currently producing, I think we’ll be able to beat any team.

“Training has been going really well, we’ve been working really hard.

“We’re feeling very confident in the sense that you have to be. You have to believe in what you’ve got and back your team, so very confident and excited to get playing.”

The Silver Ferns will play the opening match of the Vitality Netball World Cup against Trinidad and Tobago on 28 July. Their other first stage preliminary matches are against Uganda on 29 July and Singapore the following day.

Details on tickets and travel packages and more information are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.

Photo: Skhu Nkomphela