Reply To: HISTORY OF THE NETBALL WORLD CUP2020-03-28T22:50:41+10:00
Avatar photoIan Harkin
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    From the NZ Herald:
    World Beating Silver Ferns – PORT-OF-SPAIN

    Yvonne Willering surveys the setting for the 2007 world netball championships and gets quickly into her stride. “England might not even get to play the Silver Ferns in this tournament which is sad,” she says, sitting in the Waitakere Trusts Stadium stands. “I like the idea of all the top countries playing each other. Maybe they need a two-tier tournament.”

    It’s a typically forthright statement from Willering, delivered with her fondness for the game which has been central to her life and made her a world champion in 1979. That Lois Muir-coached side shared the title with Australia and hosts Trinidad and Tobago. There was no final – the 19 teams played initially in groups with the top sides then fighting it out in a round robin. Willering is well placed to compare netball now and then.

    She was a medical microbiologist in 1979 but on returning home was soon working for Netball New Zealand. The great defender went on to become a great coach. Her CV includes four years in charge of the Silver Ferns and involvement with numerous international teams, and she is preparing for her latest club assignment with Auckland in the fledgling transtasman league.

    “The world championships are far more of an event now and the pressures are different. We were still playing for the pride of the country but we didn’t have the following you have now. Success means the Silver Ferns are under far more pressure now, as they are finding out,” says Willering. Thirty years ago, there were few training camps, players were amateur, tours might involve a host of non-test matches, and there weren’t even regular substitutions.

    There was also a greater emphasis on the different national styles. Willering believes the emphasis on winning has made the game more uniform and physical. Not that there wasn’t the odd incident in days past. Against Trinidad and Tobago, Willering sent the legendary Jean Pierre – “the dancing queen” – sprawling. Pierre, her country’s sports minister before her death from cancer in 2002, was a superstar in her country.

    “It was an accident but she milked it. The whole crowd went quiet, fearing she was badly injured. I blamed it on my goalkeeper Millie Munro,” says Willering, with a grin. “We had to be escorted by police out of the stadium after that. The crowd didn’t take kindly to losing and we were jeered and spat on. The crowd was more interested in a national cause than the netball. It was just wonderful – to face that and come through it as a team.”

    It was a tournament of eccentricities which began with players being splattered by pigeons released at the opening ceremony. Willering recalls giant moths interrupting night games on the outdoor courts. The New Zealanders were actually cheered to victory over the hosts by arch rivals Australia, a result which gave the Aussies a share of the title. And there was jostling for position among the three title winners as they crammed between a row of flags to collect their medals. That was followed by a coin toss to decide who kept the trophy first.

    Willering says: “It hasn’t quite got the same ring to it when you say joint world champions … but it was still great to know that we won.”

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