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Five things we learned from Super Sunday

As the Black Ferns Sevens were storming to back-to-back world titles in San Francisco, and the in-form Black Sticks were sleeping before opening their world champs campaign in London, their struggling netball sisters were in Papakura, hoping for the start of a new and improved era.

All the Silver Ferns from the Commonwealth Games disaster were on centre-court at the Pulman Arena yesterday, spread across the six ANZ Premiership sides. Although none wanted to share their feelings, there was an air of relief in the stadium that the review into their downfall was finally out in the open.

And that Netball NZ (almost) has a future plan.

So what did Super Sunday reveal?

1. The Silver Ferns will probably have a caretaker coach

Ask anyone in the crowd what they took from the review findings, and all they wanted to discuss was: Who will the new Silver Ferns coach be?

Netball NZ have yet to determine how to go about replacing departed coach Janine Southby for the Quad Series, played against Australia, England and South Africa in September. But as the clock ticks on, a caretaker coach is now the safest bet. The selection process for a new coach for next year’s world championships needs to be robust, and not rushed. 

So a former Silver Ferns coach would almost certainly step into the breach.

Wai Taumaunu would be top of the list, if she was available. Part of the reason she stepped down in 2015 was because the playing career of her daughter, Tiana Metuarau, was just taking off. The 17-year-old shooter should be a contender for next year’s world champs side.

Taumaunu was assistant to Yvonne Willering in 1997, when Willering was appointed caretaker coach of the Silver Ferns in the wake of Leigh Gibbs’ abrupt sacking.

Australian shooting legend Vicki Wilson, who was Taumaunu’s assistant in the Silver Ferns role for two years, was watching from high in the stands at Pulman Arena yesterday.  But her allegiances now lie with the Fijian Pearls national side.

Noeline Taurua, who remains the obvious choice for permanent coach, will be tied up with her Sunshine Coast Lightning side up until the end of next month (if last year’s champions, currently fifth, have a sudden improvement of form).

2. Yvette McCausland-Durie isn’t done yet

McCausland-Durie's contract as the Silver Ferns assistant coach ended when she returned from the Gold Coast. But that doesn’t mean she won’t put her name forward again – even if the review panel found her inexperience partly to blame for the Ferns’ downward spiral.

The Pulse coach faced the media throng after her match yesterday, and answered every question fired at her about the review (after all of the Ferns players shied away from the cameras’ glare).

Yes, she took her share of the responsibility for what went wrong from October last year through to April’s Commonwealth Games. Yes, the maligned ‘player-led culture’ that Southby employed may not have worked with a young Silver Ferns side, but there was still room for it at this level: “It’s a big part of the way everyone coaches now”.

Yes, she would “always be putting my name forward for things”, to signal she was interested in “moving, growing and developing.” And if McCausland isn’t the right fit with the new Ferns coach, she would no doubt fit the bill as New Zealand A coach, as that team makes a return later this year.

And no, she hadn’t spoken to Southby since her resignation on Friday. Southby had been out cycling with her daughters, and McCausland-Durie was giving her space.  

Kudos to McCausland-Durie for fronting.

3. Netball in New Zealand is well into rehab

Of course it’s difficult to judge how the standard of our domestic netball would stack up against opposition from Australia, or England, right now. 

But based purely on what we’ve seen in this season's ANZ Premiership, New Zealand's elite netball ranks seem to be in good health.

The netball on show has been strong. The majority of clashes between the six franchise sides have been close - 18 games have been won by four goals or less. No team has been guaranteed victory, none has gone through the league unbeaten, and with just one week of the regular season remaining, there's still a place in the elimination final up for grabs.

The Pulse may have secured themselves a home final yesterday, but they are beatable - taken down by a more cohesive Tactix side by five goals (they only earned the treasured bonus point guaranteeing them the automatic spot in the grand final with the last goal of the game).

4. Maria Folau is still needed in New Zealand netball

Our most experienced shooting Fern hasn’t been around much this ANZ Premiership – but then Folau never intended to be, now that she’s a married woman living on the other side of the Tasman. 

But her appearance in the Mystics’ 70-52 victory over the Stars yesterday was both crucial for her team – as they keep fighting for a place in the elimination final – and for Netball NZ to see she hasn’t lost her elegant touch.

Folau drove the Mystics attack and shot 29 from 34 in her three quarters on court. Her long-time shooting partner, Bailey Mes, responded to her presence too – scoring 31 from 35.

“It’s always nice having her back, she slots in so easily,” Mes said afterwards. "She always knows exactly what to do."

5. Auckland has a superb new indoor stadium

Super Sunday showed off the Pulman Arena to perfection. It was a full house for yesterday’s full round, and although there were only 1700 bright orange seats, it was a passionate crowd (not easy to maintain over six hours of wall-to-wall netball).

The Northern Stars, who've made significant bounds ahead this season, deserve their new home in the six-court multi-sport stadium. And it will only help foster a new generation of netballers in south Auckland.

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