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Foundation Silver Fern Returns to Court in Tauranga

We’re celebrating the 125th year of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand and what better way to acknowledge how far we have come than to chat with Silver Fern #9, Azalea Sinclair.

Dressed in a bright yellow jacket, 88-year-old Sinclair, took to the court as coin tosser for the Netball Quad Series match between the Silver Ferns and South African Proteas in Tauranga.

Sinclair opened proceedings having herself competed for New Zealand in the just the second ever Silver Ferns Test match against Australia in 1948.

Sinclair, a goalie at heart, recounts her time as a Silver Fern highlighting some of the major differences between 1948 and today.

One of the biggest differences has been in the increase in physical requirements of the Silver Ferns.

“It was a much more ladylike game when we played, there is much more contact now,” Sinclair stated.

And Sinclair couldn’t be more right, in last night’s Test alone there were 98 contacts called on top of another 35 obstructions.

Alongside this increase physical combat, the game has also grown in height to ensure that the ball goes into the hoop.

Sinclair was considered a great GA of her time but was only 5.5ft (167cm).

“My first game against Australia my partner put her arms out and I fit underneath her!.”

Today, the shortest Silver Ferns shooter is 6.1ft (186cm).

And finally, the biggest difference comes in the frequency of team travel.

“When I played, it was after the war, so there was no money. It was every eight years that we had a tournament so I never travelled out of New Zealand,” said Sinclair.

Our current Silver Ferns team travels up to a month at a time, through Oceania, Asia, Africa and even Europe.

We could not have got to where we are today without acknowledging those who came before us.

Netball is the top women’s sport in New Zealand with legends like Dame Lois Muir, Irene van Dyk and now Noeline Taurua who all have advocated for the Silver Ferns and have worn the black dress with pride and passion.

Our Silver Ferns stand strong through Netball’s rich legacy.