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Celebrating 100 years of cultural leaders

This story is part of The Coffee Club Centenary Series, helping celebrate 100 years of netball in New Zealand.

Embedded in its rich netball history, Māori and Pasifika influences have woven a unique tapestry on the game in New Zealand, in the process fostering diversity, spirituality, vibrancy and a distinct playing style.

Celebrating 100 years of netball in New Zealand, its natural blend of players has produced a multitude of cultural leaders who have left a distinct imprint on the sport through their values and powerful ability to connect while making immense contributions to the prosperous game we have today.

Research has highlighted the values Māori and Pasifika players and coaches have had on the game through their skills and approach which has had a positive influence on enhancing netball overall while setting the tone for inclusivity, unity and respect.

Their infusion as players has created a unique skill-set which has left an enduring impact on the way the game is played in New Zealand.

More recently, teams have increasingly shared their cultures with the public where it is not uncommon for after-match speeches to be presented in Te reo Māori, English and Samoan.

The performing of a haka or Samoan siva (dance) have also added to the significance of honouring cultural heritage while enriching the netball experience for fans and players alike.

Māori schoolgirls were involved in playing netball from its earliest introduction and since Margaret (Meg) Matangi became Silver Fern #1 after being named captain of New Zealand’s first national team in 1938, cultural diversity has played a strong role in the sport’s identity ever since.


After first making the Silver Ferns team in 1996, Temepara Bailey had a long four-year wait before finally celebrating her on-court debut in 2000 against Australia. Over the next decade, the explosive little midcourter more than made up for lost time as she went on to become one of the most influential players of her era.

At 1.70m she was among the shortest players in international netball. However, a lack of height proved no hindrance to her exploits on the court. An instinctive and free-spirited player, Bailey, of Māori and Samoan descent was an exceptional athlete with a dazzling array of skills. The pint-sized pocket rocket got better with age as she continued to ply her trademark skills through the new era of semi-professional netball and on the international stage.

A crowd favourite, the mother of two was a pivotal figure in many of the Silver Ferns most memorable wins, including the 2003 Netball World Cup – where she was sensationally sent off for two goals in the final for repeated infringing – and back-to-back Commonwealth Games gold medal triumphs in 2006 and 2010.

Bailey is now honing her skills as a coach, currently plying her trade on the Gold Coast in Australia.


A prominent performer in the amateur era, zippy midcourter Jenny-May Clarkson was also on hand for one season of netball when the semi-professional league was launched in 2008. Well-travelled, she played for several teams, including Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, the Auckland Diamonds and the Southern Steel between 1998 – 2008. Clarkson played for the Silver Ferns from 1997–2002, was vice-captain in 2001, and represented the Silver Ferns at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

After retiring, Clarkson remained a familiar face, and influential public figure, following her successful transition into a career in television where she has worked since 2005 as a sports commentator, presenter, news reader and co-host of Breakfast on TVNZ. She has also worked for Māori Television.

Clarkson has, in more recent years, delved deeply into her Māori heritage, navigating her way towards reclaiming her Māoritanga, and is now fluent in te reo Māori, completing her identity in 2024 when getting her moko kauae (traditional female tattoo).

She continues to lead the way on many fronts through her on-screen role and is mum to twin sons.


One of the great defensive enforcers of netball, goalkeeper Vilimaina Davu had a dazzling career playing for both New Zealand and Fiji.

After representing her home nation, Fiji, at the 1999 World Cup (she’d captained the side since she was 18), Davu made Christchurch her home. A year later, she was playing for the Silver Ferns, where she was an integral member of their defence for six years.

Nicknamed Shorty, Davu was physically imposing, deceptively quick and exuberant on court. She helped the Silver Ferns to win the 2003 World Cup, and the gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. On and off court, she was a fan favourite for her sheer dominance, exuberance and broad smile, amassing 60 Test caps.

After her playing days, Davu coached the Fijian Pearls at the 2007 World Cup. Now a mum, New Zealand is still her home.


Born in Queensland but of Ngapuhi heritage, the stylish Ameliaranne Ekenasio moved to New Zealand in 2014 after coming through the Australian netball system. In a move that has paid off in spades, the gifted shooter has enjoyed a stellar career on this side of the Tasman.

During that time, Ekenasio has married and had two children, successfully returning to the Silver Ferns after the birth of each, highlighting the normalcy of combining motherhood with elite level sport in New Zealand.

A confident long-range shooter, Ekenasio is instantly recognisable on court through her elegant and high-arching shot. She has been the Silver Ferns captain at two different stages and was an influential figure in the Silver Ferns 2019 Netball World Cup triumph.

A graceful athlete with quick hands and feet, at the top of her game, Ekenasio is a proven match-winner while her compassion for the well-being of players has marked her special qualities as a fine leader.


Unassuming and quiet by nature, Samoan play-maker Rita Fatialofa was a naturally gifted athlete who left her imprint as one of New Zealand’s finest attacking netballers.

Fatialofa plied her trade initially as a goal attack when making her Silver Ferns debut as an 18-year-old in 1982. Poise, balance, awareness of space, strength to hold her ground and deceptively quick, Fatialofa was a graceful exponent of executing with power, precision and accuracy on the netball court.

Fatialofa’s background at goal attack made her an even better wing attack where she remains a standout figure of the position. Fatialofa was an integral member of the Silver Ferns 1987 World Tournament-winning team in Glasgow, Scotland.

She went on to coach Samoa at the 1991 and 1995 Netball World Championships. In 1999, she was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 New Year Honours.

A cross-code trailblazer, the gifted sportswoman also played softball for New Zealand, the team winning the 1982 ISF World Championship in Taipei.


Sulu Fitzpatrick’s netball career falls into two distinct chapters. The powerhouse defender played one test for the Silver Ferns at 19, became a mum to twins, and then triumphed over personal battles to wear the black dress again in 2018.

With her distinctive malu (traditional Samoan tattoo) on her thighs, Fitzpatrick played 27 Tests for New Zealand and was hugely respected for her calm, imposing leadership on and off court. She was vice-captain of the Ferns at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

She played 13 years of professional netball and represented every franchise in the country bar the Tactix. She won the ANZ Premiership with the Pulse, who helped revitalise her passion for the game, and she captained the Mystics to their first national league victory in 2021.

With a Masters in Sociology, she’s now working as a performance team leader with High Performance Sport NZ, and looking to make a difference to Pasifika women in sport.


Solonaima Maria Folau is a Silver Ferns shooting legend – a proud member of the “fossils” who helped New Zealand win the 2019 World Cup.

Folau was a pillar of the Silver Ferns for over a decade, famous for her stylish long bombs, effortless movement and grace under pressure in the circle.  

Raised in Auckland, of Samoan descent, Folau first made the Ferns at 18, and went on to play at four World Cups and four Commonwealth Games. Who can forget her famously sinking the winning goal in double overtime of the 2010 Games final against Australia in Delhi?

At the 2015 World Cup, she became the fourth Silver Fern to play 100 Tests (and continued to add just shy of 50 more).

But perhaps the highlight of her long career came in 2019, as part of the “fossils” – with Casey Kopua and Laura Langman - whose experienced, calm heads led the Ferns to a world champions title for the first time in 16 years.

A mum of two, Folau now lives in Australia.


Waikato shooter Margaret Forsyth first made the headlines when gaining Silver Ferns selection in 1979, as a 17-year-old seventh former at Hillcrest High School, for netball’s fourth World Tournament in Trinidad & Tobago.

She remains the youngest Silver Fern to play at a Netball World Championship while being just one of three Silver Ferns to win two world titles (1979 and 1987). These records were set over 40 years ago.

Of Ngati Kahugnunu ki Wairoa descent, Forsyth’s name is indelibly linked with another rising shooting star of the time, Margharet Matenga, the pair - dubbed the two Margs - forging the brilliant New Zealand shooting combination of the early 1980s. The pair’s speed, vision, flair, instinct and calmness under pressure developed into the best shooting combination in the world at the time and reinvented the dynamism of the shooting circle.

Margaret held many coaching positions over the years, including head coach of Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in 2017 and 2018, assistant coach of the FAST5 Ferns in 2017 and the NZA team in 2016.

In the 2020 New Year’s Honours, Forsyth’s 50-year love affair with netball was acknowledged when she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) for her services to netball and the community, a year before her untimely passing at just 59.

Away from sport, the Hamilton community enjoyed the benefits of Forsyth’s desire to give back. Her progression from local educator, to front-line community police officer, to local government politician helped shape and enhance her community.


Sparky, speedy and spry, Joan Hodson (nee Solia) was an outstanding midcourter for Auckland through their heyday in the 1980s.

Born in Samoa, Hodson’s family moved to Auckland when she was two, and she would become a world champion for New Zealand in two different sports – netball and touch. Hodson represented her new country in 35 Tests, including at World Cups in 1987 and 1991, and she had a great understanding of wing attack through her creativity and understanding of space. A school teacher, Hodson’s ties to netball have continued as an international umpire, an administrator and a coach.


Rotorua trailblazer Tani Jamison became the first Māori coach of the New Zealand netball team when appointed Silver Ferns coach #3 in 1967. In what was to become a history-making year for New Zealand netball, Jamison guided the Silver Ferns to a first world title when they swept all-comers in the second edition of the Netball World Championships, held in Perth.

Her history-making 1967 team were duly recognised by being inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

Appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to netball in 1994, Jamison was inducted into the Māori Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and in 2010, was made a Life Member of Netball New Zealand.


Matangi, who captained the first Silver Ferns team in their debut solitary international Test against Australia in Melbourne in 1938, was a special woman, who made a significant contribution in both the sports and education fields. She was post-humously inducted into the Māori Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 for her achievements in netball, most notably her history-making role as the captain of the first New Zealand national netball team.

Born in Taranaki, Matangi excelled at athletics during her school years and went on to represent and captain basketball (netball) teams for Taranaki, Wellington, Auckland, Auckland University and New Zealand Universities. Gaining a reputation as a fine teacher, Matangi went on to leave her mark in special needs education and IHC classes.

In 1976 she was awarded a MBE, personally presented to her by Queen Elizabeth II for her work in this field.


Born in the Cook Islands, Margharet Matenga added her own touch of Pacific panache to New Zealand netball’s expanding cultural identity. Originally arriving in New Zealand to pursue a tennis career, it was on the netball court where the teenage shooting sensation forged a remarkable career while becoming the first Cook Islander to play for the Silver Ferns.

Playing for the famous Pacific Island Churches (PIC) club in Wellington, shooter Matenga’s natural flair, ball skills, unpredictability and charisma made everyone sit up and take notice. It was the start of a marked change in the sport which revolutionised the playmaking role of shooters, particularly, the goal shoot position.

In tandem with Waikato’s Margaret Forsyth, the pair - dubbed the two Margs - developed into the best shooting combination in world netball during the early 1980s.

With her beaming ever-present smile, Matenga’s untouchable skills and unique mobility took the Silver Ferns to new levels. Matenga dazzled with her sleight of hand, vision and athletic ability to leave an indelible mark on the game.

Post-playing she returned to the Cook Islands where she held several prominent sporting positions.


Leaving a lasting impression, popular coach Yvette McCausland-Durie was the driving force behind guiding Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse through its most successful era. After a bumpy start to her coaching career, McCausland-Durie turned things around in spectacular fashion in her second coming.

Success went hand-in-hand for the McCausland-Durie/Pulse combination from the time she was anointed head coach in 2017 which coincided with the launch of the new ANZ Premiership domestic competition.

In her first year, the Pulse made the post-season play-offs for the first time in the club’s history, going on to host a Grand Final for the first time in 2018 before claiming their first-ever title in 2019 which they successfully defended in 2020 after which she stepped down.

Lured back in 2022 for another two-year stint, McCausland-Durie had instant success when the Pulse won a third title to become the most successful team in the league, bowing out for the final time in 2023 with a third-place finish.

She was instrumental in maximising the team’s cultural identity and strong relationship with principal partner Te Wānanga o Raukawa. McCausland-Durie is of Ngāti Awa and Ngāpuhi descent.

Also, an influential presence in the education sector, particularly in Māori education, McCausland-Durie co-founded Manukura School in Palmerston North with husband Nathan Durie, the pair moving on in late 2023 to resurrect Tīpene School – the Māori boys boarding school also known as St Stephen’s in its previous life, which had sat derelict for two decades.

She was named ANZ Premiership Coach of the Year in 2022 and has also been an assistant coach with the Silver Ferns, was named NZU21 coach in 2019 after previously holding the role in 2009, and in 2018 guided NZA. She was also a specialist coach with Fiji at the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa.


Blessed with impressive sporting genes, tall and agile defender Bernice Mene was destined to leave her mark once netball became her sport of choice. Of Samoan descent, both her parents represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in field events.

A standout defender of her generation, Mene was first drafted into the Silver Ferns squad as a 17-year-old schoolgirl in 1992, her on-court dynamism, maturity and ability to read the game capturing instant attention. In 1997, at just 22, the popular, Mene became the Silver Ferns 19th captain. She represented the Silver Ferns at two Netball World Cups (1995, 1999) and one Commonwealth Games (1998).

In 2003, Mene was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) for her services to netball.

Post-playing, Mene has etched out a successful career across education, television and sport. A qualified secondary school languages teacher, time as a career counsellor for elite performers steered her future course into governance where she has played a strong hand across diverse sectors. That includes being an inaugural Board member of the New Zealand Netball Players Association (NZNPA) in 2007 while in 2018, she was appointed to the NNZ Board. She fulfils the same role on numerous other non-netball related Boards.

Married to former Blackcaps cricketer Dion Nash, the couple have three children.


An exceptionally gifted midcourter, with superb vision and the power to lead, Ana Noovao came through the ranks of New Zealand youth teams before making the Silver Ferns in 1988 as a 20-year-old.

She quickly assumed a position of leadership in the New Zealand side, becoming vice captain for the 1990 Commonwealth Games demonstration match in Auckland, and at the 1991 World Cup. She then took on the role of Silver Ferns captain throughout 1992 after Waimarama Taumaunu retired.

During her career, Noovao made the decision not to play on Sundays for religious reasons.

She coached the Cook Islands team to a creditable seventh at the 2007 World Cup, and now lives in Australia where she continues to coach. 


Inspirational, intelligent and innovative, Georgie Salter made a significant impression on netball in the South.

In her playing days, Salter, nee Hapuku (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi, Tūhoe), made eight appearances for New Zealand. An astute reader of the game, tall and spontaneous, she was a key feeder for the Silver Ferns at the 1975 World Cup.

She made equal impact as a coach, guiding the Otago Rebels to win the first national league title, the Coca Cola Cup, in 1998 – the same year she took Otago to their first national title in 66 years.

Passionate about the ‘whole netballer’, Salter also mentored many, including the New Zealand U21 team, and she was a technical advisor to the Cook Islands.

She served on the Hillary Commission and was twice named Māori Coach of the Year.

Salter passed away in 2018, aged 67. In the 2019 New Year’s Honours, she was posthumously made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to netball.


With her distinctive left-handed shot at goal, Mirth Solomon (Tainui) became one of the world’s best shooters, playing a key role in New Zealand’s first-ever World Cup victory in 1967.

One of Rotorua’s sporting greats, Solomon’s netball skills were founded on her deceptive movement and ability to find space. She made the New Zealand side in 1963 to play at the first World Cup, and from there, her career gained momentum.

She was a teacher and a mum when she starred at the 1967 World Cup in Perth, the highest-scoring shooter at the tournament.

Solomon became a senior umpire and was president of Netball Rotorua for 15 years; she retired from a lifetime of teaching as deputy principal of Kaitao Intermediate. 

She witnessed many changes to netball during her lifetime. “I still believe we played a more cunning, more beautiful game,” she said before she passed away in 2023.


When Dame Noeline Taurua invited the New Zealand Men to play against the Silver Ferns in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup, Kiwis finally got to see the strength and skill of male netballers. One who stood out was Kruze Tangira.

Tangira (Te Atiawa, Tūwharetoa, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) was the only boy playing in girls’ teams in the Taranaki town of Waitara, but discovered men’s netball at 16.

“It saved my life in some respects, because it gave me a sense of purpose and a community that would have my back when no one else would.”

A tenacious mdicourter with silky skills, Tangira went on to captain the New Zealand Men. Off court, Tangira’s star rose higher, becoming a Sky Sport netball commentator and a news reporter on Te Karere; roles he says he would never have if it wasn’t for netball.


A towering figure in the sport, Waimarama Taumaunu has left a huge imprint across all facets of netball as a player, coach and administrator. In a rare achievement, Taumaunu has risen to the highest position in all three roles at international level.

Taumaunu was always destined for higher honours as a player, an outstanding early representative career with Canterbury pushing her into the Silver Ferns as a raw 18-year-old. A glittering 10-year international career followed. Taumaunu’s burgeoning leadership capabilities emerged during her final three years when she captained the Silver Ferns, in the process gaining further respect.

A proud Wellingtonian, Taumaunu made her first imact at local level with the Pacific Island Churches (PIC) club. Initially founded by the Pacific community, PIC has with Taumaunu’s involvement over the years broadened its base across all cultures. Now a diverse multi-cultural club, it has fashioned an enviable record with many of its players going on to higher honours and with which Taumaunu’s name is synonymous.

Taumaunu put her New Zealand coaching aspirations on hold to become the driving force behind England netball in 1998. For five years, Taumaunu was the national performance director of the All England Netball Association and is widely credited with transforming the game in that part of the world. It was the first time a New Zealander had been hired on a fulltime contract to run netball in another country.

Tauamanu was elevated to head coach of the Silver Ferns in late 2011, a position she held until retiring in 2015.

Taumaunu was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1992 and an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2016 for her services to netball. She was inducted into the NZ Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. Of Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu descent, she was also inducted into the Māori Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.


In being awarded a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) in 2020, Noeline Taurua became just the third netballer to achieve the status, following in the footsteps of Dame Lois Muir (services to Netball) and Dame June Mariu (services to Maori and the community).

Creative as a player, Dame Noeline showed the same traits as a coach when she was honoured after guiding the Silver Ferns to their first world title in 16 years, in 2019 after being installed as the Silver Ferns 11th coach in 2018.

A leading domestic coach for many years, Dame Noeline coached the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic from 2002 to 2013, guiding the team to the ANZ Championship title in 2012, the only time a New Zealand team won the former trans-Tasman competition. She coached the Southern Steel to the semi-finals of the ANZ Championship in 2016, following an unbeaten record in their regular competition. She also coached the Sunshine Coast Lightning in Australia, winning the Suncorp Super Netball League in 2017 and 2018 and the minor premiership in 2019.

As a player, Dame Noeline played in 34 tests for the Silver Ferns between 1994 – 99, winning a bronze medal at the 1995 Netball World Cup and silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. What she lacked in size, Dame Noeline more than made up for with her great playmaking skills, foot speed and quick thinking. Able to play all three frontline attacking positions, Dame Noeline was most prominent at goal attack where she dazzled with her on-court wizardry.

Dame Noeline, of Ngāpuhi ancestry on her father’s side, and Ngāti Whātua on her mother’s, was named Coach of the Year and shared the Supreme Award (`Rongomaraeroa’ – Māori Sportsperson of the Year) at the 2019 Aotearoa Māori Sports Awards.


The woman who called herself “New Zealand Netball’s biggest mouth”, Cat Tuivaiti (nee Latu) has been a larger-than-life character both on and off the court, with incredible longevity.  

Through her ancestry, she’s represented three nations: Samoa at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and the 2007 World Cup; New Zealand at the 2014 Commonwealth Games; and most recently, Tonga at the 2023 World Cup. And she’s also turned out for the World – starring in the World 7 team in 2009.

A prolific shooter blessed with soft hands and nimble footwork, Tuivaiti has played national league netball in New Zealand (including 122 appearances for the Mystics) and bounced back from an ACL injury to play in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball, and England’s Netball Superleague.

She now lives in Italy where her husband plays professional rugby, raising their two sons, and beginning a new chapter as a netball coach.


Growing up in west Auckland, Linda Vagana’s Samoan family insisted she lifted her school grades or stop playing netball. So, she put her head down – and ended up playing 64 Tests for the Silver Ferns.

The brilliant defender had natural netball instincts along with a legendary standing jump and clever footwork. After missing the 1995 World Cup she was determined to make it back into the side, won silver at the 1999 world championships and two more Commonwealth Games silvers.

Vagana then turned her attention to Samoa, playing for them at the 2003 World Cup then coaching their national side for nine years. Today she runs Duffy Books in Homes, gifting 15 million new books to Kiwi families in need.


A precocious young talent, shooter Maia Wilson was a Silver Fern by the end of her debut season at the elite level (ANZ Championship) at just 19 years of age. Having already played basketball for New Zealand when she joined the Pulse in her first year out of college in 2016, Wilson displayed the rich array of qualities that took her on a meteoric rise.

With the launch of the ANZ Premiership in 2017, Wilson became a foundation member of the newly-created Stars team, in her local community of South Auckland. Blessed with an unflappable temperament, accuracy and strong netballing nous, Wilson was subsequently elevated as the youngest national league captain, continuing to refine her game and push to new levels with her ability to switch between a holding or moving game.

Wilson made her Commonwealth Games debut in 2022 followed by her World Cup debut in 2023, and was a key performer in the NZ U21 team’s World Youth Cup title win in 2017.

An accomplished basketballer, having played for New Zealand in a four-nation tournament in China in 2014, Wilson was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Idaho in 2015 but turned it down when she was offered a netball contract with the Pulse.

With affiliations to Te RarawaTe WaiohuaTe Ākitai Waiohua and Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua, Wilson is deeply connected to her Māori ancestry and is a leading figure in her multi-cultural community which is reflected in the Stars values.

In the current 2024 ANZ Premiership season, Māori and Pasifika influences continue the fine tradition which make the New Zealand style of netball a unique and defining force.

New leaders have emerged through a variety of well-established players, including Phoenix Karaka, Peta Toeava, Erena Mikaere, Tiana Metuarau, Whitney Souness and Te Paea Selby-Rickit in ensuring the sport’s rich and diverse tapestry remains a strong feature.

In head coaches Tia Winikerei, Kiri Wills, Mary-Jane Araroa, Anna Andrews-Tasola, Reinga Bloxham and assistant coach Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, the Māori and Pasifika presence remains a vital piece in retaining New Zealand netball’s true point of difference.

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