They may be heading to Cape Town for the Netball World Cup 2023 as defending champions, but New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua reckons the trophy currently belongs to every team.
“We don’t believe that we have ownership of that cup,” said Taurua. “The cup now belongs to everybody so every game is going to be tough. That mentality to win every game is paramount so it’s not a guarantee at all.”
New Zealand claimed the trophy for a fifth time when they beat Australia by just one goal in the final four years ago in Liverpool. Six of the players from that squad will compete at this year’s tournament, which takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 28 July to 6 August.
Having since had to settle for bronze at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games after being beaten by Jamaica in the semi-final, the Silver Ferns are aware that repeating their heroics of four years ago will come with its challenges.
“I think there is pressure that goes along with whether you’re defending or not. Our messaging that we’d like to put across is that we are out there to win like everybody else,” explained Taurua, who has coached the Silver Ferns since 2018.
“I think Australia are number one because they are the best and you can’t deny the consistency of their ability to perform under intense pressure.
“I think another thing that we have to be mindful of is that everybody has the opportunity to put out a good performance every time [they are] out on court, you can’t negate anybody.
“So once again, what we do, how we approach every game is really important and if we do that right, then by the time we get to the end, we just play.”
New Zealand have been grouped in Pool D along with Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Singapore, and Taurua knows that particularly the African side are likely to provide a tough challenge.
“Oh my gosh, when we played Uganda last year at the Commonwealth Games, they certainly gave us a tickle. For the players that we had it was a different type of style that they weren’t used to so we got run to the wire,” she admitted of the match that the Silver Ferns eventually won 53-40.
“Trinidad and Tobago, they’re similar – that Caribbean style – they’re really tough on the ball so our ability to once again withstand the physicality but also our ability to contest is really important.
“For us, every game is really important to show that we are improving as we build, hopefully, towards the end.”
Heading into the 2019 tournament, New Zealand hadn’t lifted the Netball World Cup trophy in 16 years, their previous triumph coming in Kingston, Jamaica in 2003. They have finished runner-up to Australia on eight occasions and also have two bronze medals in their collection – one of those from the 1995 tournament when Taurua was one of the players in the team.
With a win rate of 90 per cent at the Netball World Cup (120 victories in 134 matches), the New Zealanders are always a threat and they also hold the record for the largest winning margin in history, when they defeated Northern Ireland by 108 goals (112-4) back at the first tournament in 1963.
They might not be winning by such massive margins this time around but Taurua is convinced her players will put in a good showing.
“I’m very confident in the players that we’ve selected… so we’re really excited and can’t wait to get going,” she said.
New Zealand play their first match of the tournament against Trinidad and Tobago on 28 July before taking on Uganda on 29 July and Singapore a day later.
Details on tickets and travel packages to watch the Silver Ferns in action are all available on the official tournament website (www.nwc2023.org.za) with a range of tickets and packages still available.
Photo courtesy World Netball