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Ian Harkin
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From the NZ Herald
World Beating Silver Ferns – Glasgow 1987 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10474864

Brutally honest sports team meetings are all the rage these days, especially when the chips are down. A ground-breaking New Zealand netball team meeting occurred in London 1987, during 10 days of preparation for the World Championships in Glasgow. This was no rescue mission, more a fine tuning for an already fine machine.

The 1987 team stands as our greatest, legends virtually unchallenged as the best in the world, many of them driven by defeat against Australia in the 1983 tournament final. The squad was coached by Lois Muir and included captain Leigh Gibbs, Tracey Fear, Margaret Forsyth, Sandra Edge, Margharet Matenga, Waimarama Taumaunu, Rita Fatialofa, Julie Townsend and Tracey Earl. Enough said, although New Zealand had a rocky 1986, losing five of six games to Australia.

Fear, the lean defender of Australian origin who came to New Zealand in her late teens, readily recalls the London team showdown. Yet it cut so deeply she is still reluctant to provide specific details. “We divulged our inner secrets, about what each of us found really difficult. You were really letting your innermost secrets to your team- mates,” says Fear. She and husband Terry live in Cambridge with their sports-mad kids, 17-year-old daughter Robbie and 15-year-old son Joel, who has represented New Zealand in BMX.

“I had this overwhelming sense of ‘oh my God, it’s hanging out there and woe betide us when we play in the domestic competition because we will all know our innermost secrets’. But it was a character-building moment. The hallmark of great teams is honesty that challenges each other. Only when the brutal facts are revealed can players make their games better.” Fear’s technical weakness was against attackers’ fakes, something her team-mates had already sussed. Beyond this revelation, she would say no more.

The 1987 team blitzed all-comers by at least 10 goals in the bleak Glasgow conditions and on strangely silent rubberised courts. Remarkably, they kept Australia’s shooting aces to three goals in the third quarter of their clash, then pulled away from Trinidad and Tobago in the last final before moving indoors. These great players propelled netball into a high-profile era. But the hallmarks of days gone by remained.

Rather than a grand return, Fear – netball’s high performance manager these days – and other players travelled. The Fears and Leigh and Steve Gibbs went around Europe in a van. Various team members arranged meets in Paris and New York. “The supporters in Glasgow really made it special for us but the sport was only just gaining a profile and there wasn’t anything like the incredible reception for the 2003 team,” says Fear.

But there was an unusual sequel, a 1997 Dunedin rematch against their Australian world championship adversaries. Fear’s ultra-competitive nature meant she had sworn never to play after her 1988 retirement. She trained like mad for the rematch. “There was no way I wanted to lose. The game was fiercely competitive,” she says.

“We looked anything but champions in the warm-up and we were concerned. It was very close but we won – Sandra Edge was spectacular. “I have fantastic memories of 1987. People say it was a team of legends, but you only appreciate the value of the players afterwards.”