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Silver Ferns calm fears of a serious slide

After five tests without a W, the Silver Ferns saved face with a strong rebound win over England's Roses. But can they prove it's not an aberration? Merryn Anderson reports.

Let’s just hope it was an uncharacteristic slump. 

As the Silver Ferns blasted to a 21-goal win over the England Roses in Porirua last night, bouncing back from a shocking first test loss three days before, they went some way to allaying the fear this was a team in trouble. 

Winless in their last five outings (four at the World Cup), the Ferns needed to show some drive and resilience against what is essentially England B, a touring team missing all of their silver medal-winning World Cup players.  

It wasn’t exactly perfect. Fired up from the opening whistle, the Ferns again fell into a dangerous second-quarter lull, letting a 13-goal advantage slip to four. But they stormed away with the second half to triumph 57-36. 

The Taini Jamison series now comes down to the deciding final test in Hamilton on Saturday. The city where the world rugby champions, the Black Ferns - the Silver Ferns’ closest code competitors for popularity -  will play Australia on the same day. 

*New Silver Fern shooter’s time to shine
*Metuarau on a Silver Ferns mission

Regardless of the outcome, the Ferns are likely to hold onto their ranking of No.2 in the world - one place ahead of England - despite New Zealand's dismal fourth placing at the recent World Cup. But it's only a fortnight until they meet the world No.1 side, Australia's Diamonds, in the four-test Constellation Cup.

Ferns defender Phoenix Karaka steals the ball from England's Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua was happier - but still not completely satisfied - with her side’s performance in the second test. 

“Our ability to put the foot on the throat and do the simple things well, it sort of eludes us at times - which it did in the second quarter,” she told Sky Sport after the game. 

“There’s moments where people have just gotta know they’ve got to do their own job, they’re looking at each other for someone to actually step up but they’ve got to take accountability for themselves.” 

That was obvious in the second spell - the same stanza that cost the Ferns heavily in the opening test one-goal loss. This time, though, England trailed by 10 at the first break, winning the second quarter 16-10 and closing the gap to four at halftime. But the Ferns well and truly put the nail in the coffin with a 18-6 final quarter. 

So what changed in just three days? 

The biggest personnel change was goal shoot Amelia Walmsley, making her Silver Ferns debut. The 19-year-old became Silver Fern #184, shooting 36 from 41. 

Kate Heffernan's long bomb finds Amelia Walmsley alone under the Silver Ferns hoop

Her composure was impressive for a player on debut, not backing down from any challenges even after a shaky start, missing her first two attempts on goal, and then being called for a few offensive penalties. 

“She took some hammering underneath that post, [but] she was able to stay strong,” Taurua said.

“I thought we could have taken the ball better to her, the delivery could have been better but I thought she was amazing. What a debut.” 

Hailing from Auckland, but playing her netball in Wellington for the Central Pulse, Walmsley had her parents and two younger sisters in the crowd and felt great after her first outing in the black dress. 

Coach Taurua had simply asked her to stick to the basics - to be available for the ball, and to turn and shoot. At times, the Ferns feeders were a bit hesitant to feed the ball into her, but their connection and confidence grew as the game went on. 

“At halftime, we spoke about that, I said ‘Mila Mila, I’m on, I’m on, just give it!’,” Walmsley explained, wanting the ball from wing attack Mila Reuelu-Buchanan. “And Noels said ‘If you think you’re on more, just yell’ and so by the end, I gave Mila a big yell.” 

Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who was one of the few bright spots in the first test, had another great outing, supporting Walmsley both with volume and accuracy (91 percent) and her presence in the circle. 

Finally able to give a winning interview after a match, Ekenasio said she felt “a ton of relief” at the result. 

“I was really proud of everybody tonight, it was time for us to show a bit of heart, a bit of mongrel, show what’s really in our bellies,” the experienced goal attack said. “We asked for more from each other, we asked to really dig deep and really grind.” 

Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio shot 21 from 23 in the second test with the Roses. Photo: Getty Images. 

Surprisingly, Taurua made no changes throughout the whole 60 minutes. Recently criticised for not making changes when things weren’t working, Taurua stuck with her starting seven - and this time it paid off.

There were times when it seemed like a change in the midcourt was needed, as no attackers were driving to the ball, or no pressure was being put on the Roses attackers until the ball was heading into the circle. 

However, Taurua trusted her team to learn and adjust as they went, with the Ferns only committing one turnover in the final quarter - a number almost unheard of at the elite level. 

She demanded more urgency, intensity, centre pass defence and pressure from her side, and they responded. 

The Ferns in-circle defence stepped up for this game, Phoenix Karaka a stand-out at goal defence after a quiet performance in game one. 

The MVP, Karaka finished the game with seven gains, two intercepts and four deflections and paired well with goal keep Kelly Jury, the duo committing no turnovers between them all match. 

Phoenix Karaka and Kelly Jury dominated England's shooting circle in the second test. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

After shooting at 88 percent in the first test, the Roses slipped to a disappointing 68 percent this game - Sasha Glasgow and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis both having uncharacteristically bad days under the hoop; the latter slotting just half of her 14 attempts.  

With the 1.93m tall Grace Nweke still ruled out with injury, 1.92m Walmsley was able to continue the Ferns’ game plan of feeding a tall, holding shooter. 

“The attack with Amelia in there just gives us a different option, we’ve got a holding shooter which splits the circle automatically,” Taurua explained. “Now our ability to take the ball to the circle edge will really help.” 

The final game in the series will determine whether the winless streak was out of the ordinary, or whether it was this victory which was a fluke for the Ferns. 

Ekenasio made it clear to her team in the post-match huddle the win wasn’t a reason to become complacent, knowing the unheralded England team would come out firing, with everything to prove, in the decider. 

*The Taini Jamison series concludes in Hamilton on Saturday, as the winner takes all. Coverage starts at 6.45pm on Sky Sport 1, or free-to-air on Sky Open.

The golden girl returns

Tayla Bruce has gone from a teenager fan with an NZ fern in her hair to world champion in bowls

Where is she now? Penny Whiting

Major surgery hasn't slowed down sailing trailblazer Penny Whiting - still racing yachts at 75. Now NZ's most noted yacht club has honoured her for always going that extra mile, Suzanne McFadden writes. 

Penny Whiting sensed something was up. She just couldn't decipher what.

Sitting among the crowd in the ballroom of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Whiting wondered why her son, Carl – an America’s Cup and Olympic sailing veteran ironically nicknamed Tiny – was also there for a run-of-the-mill AGM.

“Then I saw my brother a few rows back and thought, that’s unusual,” the 75-year-old Whiting says. “Next thing Carl’s elbowing me – and he has a big elbow – saying ‘Mum, it’s you they’re talking about’.

"I said, ‘What do you mean, it’s me?’”

It turned out Whiting was the stunned recipient of a life membership at the RNZYS, joining an elite club of just 13 living members. But she made headlines – as Whiting has so often in her prolific sailing career – as the first woman in the history of the 152-year-old yacht club to become a life member.

The woman who’s taught at least 33,000 people (almost three-quarters of them women) how to sail on the Waitemata Harbour was, of course, “thrilled and honoured”. And yet, smashing glass ceilings is nothing new to her.

In 1975, Whiting was one of the first two female members of the hallowed Squadron, the current home of the America’s Cup.

She felt grateful, too, she’d been able to walk to the stage to receive her framed life member certificate. Earlier this year, she could barely toddle down the dock – as a tumour inside her spinal cord pressed on the nerves to her legs. It was her knee surgeon who sent her for an x-ray of her spine: “I sent him a note saying: ‘You saved my life’.” 

Penny Whiting receives her life membership from RNZYS commodore Andrew Aitken. Photo: RNZYS

Slowly but surely, she’s recovering from the surgery to remove the benign tumour, which doctors told her had probably been there for 10 years. And last month, she was back on the water.

“I’m still racing,” she says proudly. “I race on a performance 50-footer called Bird on the Wing, where I’m the tactician, and the bossy person. All the time I was at home convalescing from my surgery, I missed that camaraderie with my sailing crew. They’re a great bunch of blokes.”

She’s planning a Christmas cruise to Whangaroa Harbour in the Far North, on board her trusty Endless Summer – the 14m yacht where, for 53 years, she taught sailing skills to tens of thousands of rookies in the Penny Whiting Sailing School.

It’s the same boat, built and designed by the Whiting family, that she took King Charles, Muhammad Ali and Fleetwood Mac sailing on. “Fleetwood Mac about four times; they would just ring me whenever they were in town,” says Whiting, who received an MBE in 1993 for services to sailing.

“The mighty Endless Summer is as good as ever. She recently got a new motor and I’ll have a couple of working bees over the next few weekends down at Westhaven to get her ready again.”

Whiting’s days of sailing up and down the coastline on her own are over now she’s not so agile. But different friends will join her on board during the summer.

She may not be as quick on her feet (even with two knee replacements, which she blames on her years playing tennis in a team called ‘The G-Strings’), but Whiting has lost none of her trademark exuberance, vim, humour and candour.

Looking out over the Waitemata from her new penthouse apartment, she talks with tenderness of her 10 grandkids, who are helping keep the Whiting sailing dynasty alive. The eldest boys – Carl’s teenage sons Crüe and Ryder Ellis – are already sailing overseas. Crüe just finished second in the Maxi worlds in Palma, and Ryder is crewing in the Ocean Global Race, sailed in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread round-the-world race, in the leg from Cape Town to Auckland.  

“From when they were little, the two big boys and I would take off in January for 10 days on Endless Summer and sail all around the [Hauraki] Gulf,” says Penny, who the grandkids call Bunny.

Penny Whiting's eldest grandchildren, Crüe and Ryder Ellis, spent a lot of time on Endless Summer growing up. Photo: supplied. 

The sailing genes hark back to the boys’ great grandfather, renowned Auckland cruising sailor D’Arcy Whiting.

Penny, born on Auckland Anniversary regatta day in 1949, was two when she first went sailing with her dad. She remembers the day he turned up at her school when she was 14 to collect her and younger brother Paul to race from Auckland to Noumea. “We went sailing offshore for three months!” she hoots.

Whiting left school the day she turned 15, armed with her driver’s licence and her first job at Sails and Covers, with Kiwi sailing legends Tony and Chris Bouzaid.  (Sixty years on, it was Chris who nominated her for the RNZYS life membership).

At 19, she started her sailing school, and ran it virtually single-handedly for over half a century, till she stepped away from the helm in 2017.  

“I absolutely feel proud. I always had 10 or 12 people aboard for three hours, twice a day, seven days a week, for five months every summer,” she says. “And I loved it because people learned to sail.

“They would come on board frightened and unnerved, but in a group environment they suddenly realised all the other people, male and female, had the same issues.

“The 33,000 adults who went through the school, I enjoyed every one of them. I got Christmas cards for years when they were in fashion: ‘You taught me to sail and now I’m sailing in Greece’. In the supermarket when people come up to me and say, ‘You taught me how to sail’, I wish they’d say their name - I would recognise them because I prided myself in knowing everyone’s name who came sailing.”  

Penny Whiting at the helm of her evergreen yacht, Endless Summer. Photo: supplied. 

Whiting brought up her two children with the help of former husband and sports commentator, Doc Williams, while running her eponymous school.

Its success, she says, came from sticking to the basics and her decision not to extend the school into elite sailing.

“Get the building blocks right, and the rest will come. If you have the basic skills, you can go sailing with anybody. I always told them – sailing isn’t about strength, it’s all about timing. If it’s hard to do, you’re doing it the wrong damn way,” she says.

The majority of her sailing clients were women, and for the first three years the ‘Lady Penelope Sailing School’ was female-only. “But then I realised women didn’t need to learn to race; people needed to learn to sail,” says Whiting.

“But I think the pathways for women in sailing now are huge. There’s so much opportunity - women on board the SailGP, and now the Womens’ America’s Cup in the AC40s. I’m not sure I agree a lot with segregation… having women’s-only or men's-only events. I really like to see mixed crews.”

Penny Whiting teaching a group of women to sail. Photo: supplied. 

Sailing against men was the reason why, 48 years ago, Whiting applied to become a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron with another female sailor, Rachel Upton.

Legend has it when Whiting’s request came up before the committee, there was initially silence, followed by a member’s question: “Will she use the urinal, or does she expect us to build her a toilet?”

Whiting was driven to become a member so she could race against the Squadron commodore. “I owned a boat named Avian, and John McKenzie, the commodore at the time, owned its sister ship, Sirius. And I wasn’t allowed to race him unless I was a member,” she says.

Her first chance was a 27 nautical-mile race to Te Kouma Harbour on the Coromandel Peninsular.

“I got an all-girls crew and my mum made us pink lace visors that we wore with pink t-shirts, blue miniskirts and pink underwear. We got on the startline with the kite up and haired off down the harbour - and we pipped the commodore,” she says.

Whiting is still a regular sight at the RNZYS, where she teaches practical coastal navigation. “I race down with my suitcase of rulers, dividers and rubbers and make them to do navigation like we used to. So if their phone goes flat and they can’t get their GPS, they can read their latitudes and longitudes,” she says.

She still takes couples out on Endless Summer for a two-night, three-day sailing class around Waiheke Island. “They’re usually people who want to buy their first boat,” Whiting says.

But it’s clear her life isn’t all about sailing: “There are so many other things you can turn your hand to.”

A long-time supporter of Auckland Zoo, Penny Whiting stands with the zebra sculpture created by her niece. Photo: Suzanne McFadden

She paints, and many of her works hang in her apartment alongside her father’s art (including watercolours he painted while fighting in World War II), and copper sculptures by her welder niece in Australia.

A few days a week, she hand-makes French appliques for furniture in her old garage, supplying markets in New Zealand and Australia.

An Auckland city councillor for two terms in the 1990s, Whiting only recently relinquished her role as chair of the Auckland Zoo Charitable Trust, where she raised millions of dollars to revamp the Zoo. She still has a soft spot for it, and can hear the high-pitched calls of the Siamang monkeys from her bedroom window.

Where she once spent her winters sailing in the Northern Hemisphere (hence the "endless summers"), she hasn't travelled a lot since the Covid pandemic. 

She knows she needs to slow down a bit, now. “Being up here in the clouds watching the weather rolling in, I’ve kind of enjoyed it,” she says.

But the call of the sea is loud and clear from there, too.

Metuarau on a Silver Ferns mission

Missing out on the Commonwealth Games gave Tiana Metuarau the fire to work even harder for her Silver Ferns dream. She's back from an abrupt World Cup call-up and ready to keep growing. 

Tiana Metuarau lay shaking uncontrollably in her Cape Town bed, unsure what was happening to her.

She'd just been told she was going to play in the Netball World Cup - and her nerves shot through the roof.

It was a unique situation for the 22-year-old shooter, named as one of the three reserves for the tournament in July but called up to the Silver Ferns squad of 12 after three games. 

Ferns goal shoot Grace Nweke suffered a partial tear to her patella tendon and was ruled out for the rest of the tournament, and for the first time, teams were able to call on a reserve player to replace them. 

“I genuinely think I had an anxiety attack,” Metuarau says about when she heard the news she’d be playing. 

“It was quite confronting, it was a very unique opportunity. You never want that to be the circumstances in which you enter a side, especially for one of your good friends.

“Mila [Reuelu-Buchanan] was my roomie at the World Cup and I was like shaking in bed, and I was just like ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me’.”

*New Silver Fern shooter’s time to shine
*Daughters of Silver Ferns passed the black dress

Metuarau’s mum, Silver Ferns legend and former coach Waimarama Taumaunu had flown over to Cape Town for the first few days of the tournament, but her flight home to New Zealand was scheduled for the day Metuarau was called in to play. 

“I was texting my mum and begging her to stay, genuinely, she was like ‘Ugh, do I have to stay?’, but she ended up staying for the duration of the World Cup which was really nice,” Metuarau says. 

Having just six international caps to her name since her debut in September 2021, it was a big ask for the young shooter, but her maturity and calm head on court showed. 

“I was super nervous, but once I’d gotten out on court, I obviously just had to step into my role and do whatever I needed to do,” she explains. 

“And once I took the court, I think the nerves settled and I was away.” 

A young Tiana Metuarau (right) in 2017, her first year in the ANZ Premiership. Photo: Getty Images

Metuarau made her debut for the Central Pulse in the ANZ Premiership at just 16-years-old, and has played seven seasons in New Zealand’s top domestic competition. 

After making her Ferns debut at 20, Metuarau wasn’t selected in the team to compete at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. 

So, to get the call to be a travelling reserve for the World Cup brought up mixed emotions for Metuarau, wanting to be part of the 12 but still happy to contribute to the wider team. 

“In my head, I was like I can either think I’m just a reserve or I can think I’m actually part of the team and I’m contributing in more ways than just filling in where they need me to,” she says. 

“But I was super stoked at the same time, because a year ago, I wasn’t in the Commonwealth Games squad which was quite disheartening I’d say. So really nice to be on the receiving end of more positive news.

“Having not been in the squad last year, that was a real wake-up call and to be in the squad this year, it’s just a privilege really. It’s not an opportunity that I take lightly so I’m really looking forward to the next couple of series.” 

With the tough competition the Ferns faced on court, Metuarau also took a lot of lessons from being part of the tournament. 

“I definitely think I made the most of all the opportunities that I got,” she says. 

“Overall I think I learnt a lot, I learnt a lot about pressure, in terms of the international standard, I learnt how to be a really supportive teammate as well.” 

Metuarau wearing the black dress ahead of the Netball World Cup. 

The Taini Jamison series started yesterday with the first of three matches between the Silver Ferns and the England Roses, played across Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton. 

The Roses named a squad full of largely inexperienced players, none of their squad members sent to NZ part of the silver medal-winning World Cup team. But despite their underdog label, the Roses had a stellar second quarter and held on to beat the Ferns, 55-54. 

“Honestly, I think the fact that we don’t know them that well is sort of in their favour I suppose,” Metuarau said going into the series. 

“It’s something we need to do our absolute best at preparing for, because complacency is something we don’t want to enter our camp.” 

Metuarau says the Ferns weren't taking the England team lightly, and they fought back from a 10-goal deficit in the third quarter to draw back within one by the final buzzer. She played the second half, helping the Ferns stay in the game and pairing with captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio well. 

Shooting 6/7, she played more of a supporting role in the circle, with some clever feeds and balancing the circle to give Ekenasio (who shot 39/41) space. 

With Nweke still recovering from her knee injury, 19-year-old Amelia Walmsley has the opportunity to make her Silver Ferns debut. One of Metuarau’s teammates at the Pulse, they’re excited to have the chance to play together in the black dress. 

“I’m excited to play with Amelia, I’m like a proud mum, having played with her at the Pulse and just seeing her progression,” Metuarau laughs, just three years her senior. 

“She’s so coachable, she will take on feedback and she has an eagerness to learn, so I’m excited to see what she does and I’m excited to play with her.” 

Walmsley and Metuarau will team up again for the Pulse in next year’s ANZ Premiership, the successful partnership boosting the Pulse to finish second on the ladder after the regular season this year. 

“We are both quite young, I think I forget that I'm young as well, I feel like I’ve been around for a while. But I think we’ve both got a lot of growth and shifts to make as well,” Metuarau says about continuing their partnership at the Pulse. 

“I’m very happy that she’s decided to stay in the best city in the world,” she laughs, with Walmsley originally from Auckland and spending the ANZ seasons in Wellington. 

Metuarau also played with Ekenasio at the Pulse for a few years, and says she doesn’t want to give away any of the Ferns' game plans, but praises Ekenasio’s versatility between both shooting positions. 

Metuarau and Amelia Walmsley will team up for the Pulse again next year. Photo: Getty Images

Metuarau spent a season with the Southern Steel in 2021, playing alongside George Fisher, and has played at the Pulse with various shooters - including Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn. 

“Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a lot of different shooters and with that, I’ve had to learn how to adapt to different styles and how I can adjust my game or improve in certain areas,” she explains. 

Despite her youth, Metuarau’s experience and personality thrust her into a leadership position at the Pulse, co-captaining the side with Kelly Jury for the past two seasons. 

“Even with leadership, my delivery of communication and the things I say, I feel like that’s been a real shift for me as well.” 

Her growth over the past few seasons has come in multiple places, on and off-court. 

“Overall, I think I’m just a lot more disciplined, my defensive game has grown a lot as well,” Metuarau says. 

“Obviously there are a lot of other shifts I can make but I think I’m just trying to slowly implement a few changes as I go.” 

Once the Ferns finish the Taini Jamison series, they head over the ditch for the Constellation Cup. The teams will play two games in Australia and then return to New Zealand for the final two. 

Metuarau says the side aren’t thinking too much about the threat of the Diamonds, who they didn’t face at the World Cup. Inarguably a tougher opponent than the Roses, the Diamonds have only lost the Cup twice - in 2012 and 2021. 

“Our focus is primarily on ourselves and how we can get some fluidity and consolidate on combinations and structures,” Metuarau explains. 

“Just to instil confidence throughout our entire side, I feel like that’s the most important thing.” 

But ultimately, it’s up to coach Dame Noeline Taurua to prepare the side - “It’s up to the Dame really, whatever she decides,” Metuarau jokes. 

It could very well be the Dame’s last outing as coach of the Ferns, her contract coming to an end after the Constellation Cup. 

*The Taini Jamison series continues in Wellington on Wednesday, live on Sky Sport 1 from 7pm. The conclusion of the series is on Saturday in Hamilton at 7pm. 

Transom's times come again

One of the country’s top swimmers is to trial for the NZ team for the first time since 2017. This time she could qualify for the Paris Olympics in multiple events. Dave Crampton reports.

In February 2020 Laticia Transom was one of New Zealand’s top freestyle swimmers. She would have been a handy relay swimmer at the Tokyo Olympics.

She never went. She never trialled. She wasn’t bothered by it, either.

That's all about to change. She’s even quicker now. At last month’s Queensland championships, Brisbane-based Transom, 22, clocked 53.13 seconds in the 100m freestyle, smashing the NZ short course open record set 14 years ago by nearly half a second.

She’s now looking to get onto the NZ team for the World Aquatics championships in Doha in February, which are also trials for the Paris Olympics in July. She looks set to do so, too.

While acknowledging the significance of breaking an NZ record, she said her time wasn’t a surprise, nor was she initially aware she had taken the record.

“It did not put it into perspective of how quick that was for me until I realised it was the national record.”

Transom, who lived in Taihape for five years before moving to Australia, smashed her fastest time by more than two seconds; her first lifetime best in the short course event for five years.

There’s a reason why Transom did not compete internationally and for the gap between these lifetime bests; her focus was elsewhere.

Swimming on scholarship in the United States, she was competing in yards, rather than metres, for the University of Southern California (USC) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) while studying.

After five years in the US, graduating with a Bachelor of Psychology, Transom, now back in Brisbane, is doing “a really good training block” with her Brisbane Grammar coach Bobby Jovanovich, so she is ready to hit her straps at the Doha trials in Auckland come November.

“I thought it would be really difficult coming back and taking six weeks off prior to starting back in Brisbane,” she says. “I thought ‘what am I doing, I don’t think I’m cut out for this’ – but I adjusted really quickly.”

Transom competing while at the University of Hawaii.  Photo: Derren Iha, University of Hawaii Athletics

A month after her first hit-out in a long course (50m) pool since returning from the US, Transom should comfortably make any selected 4x200m freestyle relay team for Doha and hopes to go under the 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle standards.

If she does, she is likely to be one of just two NZ swimmers to do so in different disciplines if individual medley swimmer Lewis Clareburt meets the qualifying standard in the 200m butterfly event he won at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Trials will be Transom’s first time in New Zealand since successfully trialling for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she placed 12th in the 50m freestyle aged 16. She also competed with Clareburt at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games, where both won multiple gold medals.

That year Transom (Ngati Kahungunu, Ngai Te Rangi, Te Ati Haunui a Paparangi) and Clareburt (Tainui) each won the main junior award at the Māori Sports Awards, with Clareburt winning the Supreme Award five years later.

Just two of the 11 swimmers in that 2017 team, Clareburt and Zac Reid, went on to compete at a World Championship and an Olympics. Transom aims to do both within six months.

Transom’s likely selection will reap the benefits from regularly competing against some of the world’s top swimmers, including in NCAA Division 1 championship finals.

“I think I’ve adapted to that higher level of professionalism and expectation when it comes to performance,” she says. “My experience in the US has prepared me for that. The depth of the field is so deep, you have to essentially go best times in the morning to make the finals.”

She did.

Yet just over a year ago, after making her first NCAA final, she almost quit the sport.

In 2022, she placed 7th in the 200 freestyle just behind Lia Thomas, the first openly transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division 1 championship. While she did not consider it an issue, she now says Thomas should not have competed against her.

Transom with the trophy for the  2023 NCAA Championships 7th place in the 100 Freestyle. Photo: Tim Gangloff, Hatpix Photography

“I was in the lane next to her. This girl was going through something, I was going through something, and it was nice to have someone else dealing with a lot of pressure,” Transom says.

“Looking back, I think entries should be a matter of biological sex as opposed to gender identity. Lia is absolutely entitled to express herself and be whatever she wants to be, but in the nature of sport I believe it should be kept separate by sex.”

Despite her top performances, Transom’s head was elsewhere. She was not excited about swimming, as it was taking a toll on both her physical and mental health. She had fainting episodes leading to four concussions between 2020 and 2022. She was subsequently diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), where the body does not control the heart rate as it should after standing up.

“I was committed to staying at USC, but really was in such a dark place that I couldn’t think of anything worse than being there for another year,” she says. “I sort of felt trapped - it was either stay at USC or quit swimming.”

Transom did not want to do either. So, she switched to swim for the University of Hawaii.

“I just wanted to go and have fun – and I did. I had the most fun year of my life, and that is what got me back into swimming.”

She also made another NCAA final, this time the 100 freestyle, again for 7th place. Back in New Zealand, Transom will have to not only adapt to racing in a 50m pool, something she has rarely done in the past five years, but also do better in it to meet tough Olympic times next year.

“I haven’t been great at short course swimming, but going to the US you obviously have to be, so I worked a lot on my underwater,” she says. “My turns aren’t that great still, they’re really slow, but there’s little things I’ve been able to take from the US to help improve my long course swimming.”

She’s confident she’ll do well.

“I actually prefer long course swimming.”

Return of the Ferns

Football, netball, cricket and rugby - it's all on for Kiwi women's sports teams across the globe this weekend. Merryn Anderson gives the lowdown on all the Ferns action.

Did you think, with the wave of World Cups receding from our shores, women's sport was about to take a back seat? Think again. 

There are still plenty of opportunities to support our women’s sport teams, with the return of four of the Ferns teams in a bumper weekend of sport.

The Football Ferns play their first game since their FIFA World Cup journey finished in July, playing two friendly matches against Chile - the first kicking off in Santiago at 11am on Sunday (NZ time).

Then the Silver Ferns begin their Taini Jamison series against the England Roses - the first game in the three-match series played in Christchurch, with the first centre pass at 4pm. 

And for the night owls and cricket fanatics out there, the White Ferns start their tour of South Africa with their first ODI at 9pm. 

For rugby fans, there’s still one week to wait until the Black Ferns play at home, but the Black Ferns XV, made up of rising rugby stars, will play Samoa's Manusina at Pukekohe on Saturday at 4.30pm (live on Sky Sport 1). Grace Brooker will lead the team, which features two other players who have Black Ferns caps. 

LockerRoom has all you need to know ahead of the busy weekend of women's sport.

Football Ferns 

The Football Ferns changed the perception of women’s football in Aotearoa when 42,137 fans packed out Eden Park to see the team win their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup game back in July.

The 1-0 win over Norway ultimately wasn’t enough to take them through the group stage, but it captured a nation, with over one million Kiwis tuning into television coverage of the match, and creating a fervour that grew during the tournament. 

To show just how much of an impact the World Cup had Downunder, the Australian Matildas' first home game since they made the semifinals of the World Cup - against the Philippines - has been moved from a stadium seating 20,000 to Optus Stadium, capacity 60,000.

Unfortunately, Kiwi football fans won’t have the same opportunity - the Football Ferns are playing two games against Chile in South America, one of which will be played behind closed doors and not broadcast (at the request of the Chilean team). 

However, Kiwi fans can tune into the first game between NZ and Chile, at 11am on Sunday. 

Jacqui Hand had a standout World Cup for the Ferns, and will be looking to continue that form. Photo: Getty Images

The Football Ferns remain ranked 26th after the World Cup, and Chile - who didn’t qualify - sit at 41st, so the Ferns are favourites for this battle. 

Most of the key players for the Ferns return, including veterans Ali Riley, Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen, while Ria Percival sits this tour out. 

The team will be aiming to continue their winning momentum from the first game of the World Cup, and not just treating these games as a chance to test things out. 

Having gone a long period (almost five months) without scoring, and an even longer period without a win (10 months) last year, the Ferns won’t want to wait that long for their next goal and win since the World Cup. 

Player to watch: Jacqui Hand

Hand set up the Ferns’ only goal of the World Cup - speeding down the touchline, then crossing to Hannah Wilkinson with pinpoint accuracy. The 24-year-old came close to scoring multiple times, with one disallowed goal against the Philippines breaking Kiwi hearts. 

She’ll be dangerous for the Football Ferns in front of goal this weekend. The forward will travel from Finland, where she now plays with Åland United in Finland’s top league. 

Silver Ferns

For the first time in their history, the Silver Ferns missed out on a medal at last month's Netball World Cup, finishing fourth. The loss of goal shoot Grace Nweke rattled the team, and with Nweke still recovering from her knee injury, young shooter Amelia Walmsley has a chance to make her mark in this series against England.

Former Silver Ferns captain Julie Seymour, part of the coaching team for this series, says the team aren’t reflecting too much on the World Cup, and more thinking about moving forward. 

“Players are obviously really disappointed from the performance at the World Cup and really eager to get out there on court and show that as Silver Ferns, we’re capable of more," she says. 

“We can lift up and rise and improve. And you can really feel that desire within the group, wanting to put a better product out there.” 

The Ferns are taking on a largely inexperienced England Roses side, much to the disappointment of Kiwi fans. None of the Roses squad who competed at the World Cup (finishing second) are playing in this series. 

Seymour says the side hasn’t really talked too much about their opposition yet. “It’s very much been about us, and what we need to do out on court,” she says. 

“It really doesn’t matter who we play against, there’s a certain style the Ferns want to play, and a certain standard that they want to play at." 

Tiana Metuarau (left), Amelia Walmsley (third from left) and Phoenix Karaka (right) will all put the black dress on against England. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography

Despite the inexperience of the England side, the Ferns have still selected their top players. Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit sit out of this series, and Nweke continues her rehab, so World Cup travelling reserves Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Tiana Metuarau join Walmsley as the new additions. 

Seymour, also coach of the New Zealand U21s, says fans may see something new out on court for the Ferns. “And maybe some new people who haven’t had as much international experience will have an opportunity to be out there as well,” she says.

A midcourt legend, Seymour has been working with the middies on being efficient with their movements, and getting the ball into the Ferns shooters as smoothly and quickly as possible. “We’ve been working on being really punchy and direct and looking in, looking in early. Obviously the less you need to pass around the ball, the less opportunity there is to lose it.” 

Player to watch: Phoenix Karaka

A member of the Silver Ferns for almost 10 years, Karaka had a standout season with the Northern Mystics, and carried that form into the Ferns this year. The team has a wealth of defensive options, but Karaka’s ability to read the game and play well alongside any defensive partner help her stand out. 

White Ferns

Cricket fans will be desperate to see the White Ferns back in action, their only games over the Kiwi winter being a rain-affected tour of Sri Lanka in June and July. 

The team will play three ODIs and five T20s against South Africa across September and October before returning home for the summer to play Pakistan and England. 

They’ve named a strong squad, filled with players who spent the winter in overseas competitions, like Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates and Melie Kerr. 

South Africa can be inconsistent, beating New Zealand by 65 runs in their most recent meeting, at the T20 World Cup in February, but had a few poor performances in their tour of Pakistan this month. 

The White Ferns have also experienced a few heavy losses this year, and will need their senior players to keep calm in order to get runs on the board, and avoid batting collapses. 

Kate Anderson's move to Canterbury for cricket paid off this year, rewarded with a White Ferns contract. 

Player to watch: Kate Anderson

Anderson received a White Ferns contract for the first time this year, after a standout Kiwi summer, where she was named women’s domestic player of the year. 

She was ruled out of the Sri Lanka tour with a finger injury, so will be eager to make her mark in her first outing with the Ferns. Likely to be utilised most as a batter, Anderson could also be a handy bowler for the team. 

*Weekend schedule: Black Ferns XV vs Samoa, Sat 4.30pm, Sky Sport 1; Football Ferns vs Chile, Sun 11am, FIFA+; Silver Ferns vs England Roses, Sun 3.30pm (Sky Sport 1 & free-to-air on Sky Open); White Ferns vs South Africa, Sun 8.45pm, Sky Sport 2. 

Army bridge builder nails Black Ferns XV

A young army captain who led the major rebuild of a flood-destroyed bridge, Laura Bayfield is now storming the rugby field, playing in the first Black Ferns XV this weekend. Suzanne McFadden reports.

There’s no bridge too far for Laura Bayfield.

A New Zealand Army captain at just 24, Bayfield believes in taking every opportunity that comes her way.

At the age of 20, she led a team of military engineers to build one of the longest Bailey bridges in New Zealand – across the Waiho River on the West Coast – after raging floodwaters washed away the lifeline between two key tourism communities.

A proud sapper – or army engineer – Captain Bayfield is now second in charge of the 3rd Field and Emergency Response Squadron based just south of Christchurch.

And all through her military career, she’s managed to stay on a parallel path with sport.  

Long arm of law reaches Black Ferns XV
Hohaia makes arresting start to test rugby

She’s tried her hand at rugby league, playing in the national women’s premiership in her first year, and following in the strides of her fullback grandad, Roy Moore, who played for the Kiwis in the 1950s.

She’s battled back from two serious injuries – one, a fractured ankle that saw her choppered out of remote West Coast bush during the Godzone adventure race.

After only four years playing rugby, the soaring lock claimed the No.4 jersey as her own in the Canterbury side in this season’s Farah Palmer Cup. And now she’s made the inaugural Black Ferns XV to meet Samoa's Manusina XV in Pukekohe this weekend.  

Bayfield puts this latest opportunity right up there with building a bridge.

“It’s unreal – they’re such a cool group of people to be around,” she says. “We’re preparing for the game on Saturday but also getting an insight into the life of a professional athlete.

“I’m loving it. If this could pay the bills, it would be awesome.”

Captain Laura Bayfield is seeing the values of rugby and army life align. Photo: NZDF

Of course, it's Bayfield’s dream to make rugby a profession and play for the Black Ferns test side. And if it came down to a matter of having to choose between two careers, she thinks she knows which way she’d lean.

“I really enjoy being part of the army, and I know it will always be there,” she says. “If the opportunity came with rugby, I could always join the territorial forces and do that part-time.”

The army, she says, has been “super supportive” of her playing sport outside work, allowing her time to train, travel and play during rugby season. (Last week she managed to merge the two, and play rugby for the Defence Ferns).   

“A lot of the values align between rugby and the army. So it feels like it’s been a pretty seamless transition between the two,” Bayfield says.

“The same things are valued – the camaraderie, the culture, and the connections with people.”

It was the armed forces that first led Bayfield to the rugby field. Well, more correctly, an international rugby-playing army supply technician.

Bayfield grew up in Auckland, where her parents still live, and in her years at Mt Albert Grammar School, she played netball, volleyball and hockey. “Never rugby,” she says. “I never thought about it – until one of my mates mentioned it.”

That mate was Black Ferns Sevens and Hurricanes Poua player Crystal Mayes, who was also in the 2nd Engineer Regiment in Palmerston North in 2020 with Bayfield. “She saw me at a PT session and said ‘Come along to rugby training you’ll love it’. And I did,” Bayfield says.

Bayfield started out with the Linton club. With her lofty height – 1.77m – she was put straight in at lock. “Fortunately, I’ve learned to love the position,” she laughs.

The next year, she moved to Pahiatua and played for the Bush club for a season, before her new role in the 3rd Field and Emergency Response Squadron took her south to the Burnham Military Base.

In 2022, Bayfield made her Farah Palmer Cup debut, but with Tasman Mako – as a loan player from Canterbury. “There was a group of us travelling from Christchurch to Nelson to train and play every week,” she says. “It was such a cool experience.”

Until it turned ugly. In her fourth game with the Mako, she tore the medial cruciate ligament in a knee, ruling her out for the rest of the season.

“The army were again so supportive,” Bayfield says. “We’ve got great facilities at work that support rehabilitation. I was able to really concentrate on my rehab, and come back fitter, faster, stronger.

“As bad as it was, it taught me a massive lesson about how to look after my body and how to prepare myself for such a high-intensity sport. I think it’s made me a better athlete.”

Laura Bayfield on the run for Canterbury against Auckland in this year's FPC. Photo: Getty Images 

Bayfield had never been so nervous than before her debut for Canterbury this year, but she started the match at Christchurch’s Rugby Park playing at lock and finished at No.8 in their 58-29 victory over Wellington Pride.

The defending champions had “a very awesome season”, until falling at the last hurdle to Auckland Storm in the grand final earlier this month. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and they just wanted it more,” Bayfield says.

She wants to experience winning a national championship title, even defend a world title with the Black Ferns, and “become the best player and the best version of myself I can be”.

As with everything she’s done, her motto is “to put my best foot forward and take any opportunity that comes my way”.

The Mt Albert Grammar prefect enlisted in the army in 2017, after she went to a two-day symposium at the Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Whenuapai focusing on women in the defence force. Engineers run in her family, but it was the variety of an army engineering career that piqued her interest.

“Engineering in the army is quite different to structural or civil engineering. We do boating, search, demolition and bridging,” she says. “The emergency responders are really diverse – we have combat engineers and firefighters. It’s a great squadron to be part of.”

Her dad and sister, Emma, are both civil engineers: “They always call me the ‘fake’ engineer, because I never got a degree."

But they haven’t built a Bailey bridge.

Reconnecting the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier communities with the 170m-long Waiho Bridge back in 2019 remains one of the highlights of her career, says Bayfield, then Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Engineer Regiment.

“That was incredible. I’d had no experience building a Bailey bridge before, but my team of 16 had. They were hands-on, getting the bridge physically put together,” she explains. “My job was a lot of liaison, working with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Downer contractors to build the bridge.”

The original bridge had been washed away by floodwaters and boulders after two days of torrential rain in South Westland – costing local businesses an estimated $48 million in lost income. But once the “giant puzzle” had been completed, in just 18 days, it was believed to be the largest bridge the Army has helped build since the Second World War.

“It was pretty cool to watch the first cars drive over the bridge, and know what it meant to the locals,” Bayfield says. “It was an honour to be part of that process.”

Lock Laura Bayfield is hoisted up by her Tasman Mako team-mates during her short FPC stint in 2022. Photo: Getty Images.

Most recently in her role with the Emergency Response Squadron, Bayfield has been training in small boats around Akaroa and Lyttelton.

She’s been out of the “office” lately, though – dashing from one rugby camp to another. Last weekend, she wrapped up the Defence Ferns series against the NZ Police and NZ Universities, to join the first ever Black Ferns XV squad of 27. The premise behind the new team, coached by Whitney Hansen, is to expose the rising stars of New Zealand rugby to the professional environment and give them a taste of international rugby.

To wear the fern twice in a fortnight is “amazing”, Bayfield says. “For me it’s representing my family name, and hopefully making them proud. And being able to do that with heaps of my mates is so cool.”

It makes little difference she comes from a proud league family. Her grandad, Roy Moore, a goalkicker who toured with the Kiwi Ferns to Australia, England and France in the 1950s, passed away last year.

“I guess I got a few of his genes passed down,” says Bayfield, who starred for the Mid-Central Vipers in the 2021 NZRL national premiership, but then put league aside to focus on rugby.

Bayfield harbours another sporting dream. Two years ago, she had to be rescued by helicopter from the West Coast bush after fracturing her ankle 24 hours into the Godzone adventure race.

“I’ve definitely got some unfinished business there once rugby dies down,” she says.

With so many opportunities flooding in, that could be a way off yet.

* The Black Ferns XV v Manusina XV kicks off at Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe, on Saturday at 4.35pm, and will screen live on Sky Sport 1.

The flow on effect is a period game-changer

It's time to normalise conversations around periods to help young women feel comfortable playing sport - that's the goal of the Flow on Effect initiative. Suzanne McFadden talks to wāhine aiming to make a difference in athletes' health and wellbeing.

“It’s an uncomfortable journey we all need to be comfortable with.”

It’s a journey Kate Ebrahim - White Fern cricketer, Canterbury rugby player, teacher, coach and mum - is now well into. But she’s in the process of taking young women with her.

Ebrahim is talking about female athlete health – and the need to talk more about it. Removing the stigma around menstruation, normalising discussions around periods and giving coaches the tools to better understand the physical development of young women.

“We're all uncomfortable talking about it but we need to start getting comfortable about it. I guess that happens over time through changing the language we use, changing the conversations we have and increasing awareness,” says Ebrahim, last year’s Otago Sparks cricketer of the year.

“Even in the high-performance environments I'm currently in, it's still a very shallow area. It's not normalised yet - especially with the younger age group, which is alarming. But I can see sports are now trying to normalise it.”

Ebrahim's personal philosophy is in sync with The Flow On Effect – a new initiative by Sport New Zealand to 'kick-start the conversation' around female health, menstruation and physical activity, especially in communities.

It comes off the back of last month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup played in New Zealand, and is part of the government’s leverage and legacy programme to get more young women physically active. In this case by increasing education around female health, reducing period anxiety, and addressing period poverty.

As well as being a top athlete, Ebrahim works with many young women who would benefit from these conversations - she’s a teacher at Belmacewen Intermediate in Dunedin, she’s coaching the St Hilda’s Collegiate 1st XI girls cricket side and working with the Otago women’s rugby team in the Farah Palmer Cup.

Kate Ebrahim wants to be a game changer on and off the cricket pitch. Photo: Getty Images. 

Ebrahim, who had daughter Sophia three years ago, says it’s a serious oversight that female health and wellbeing hasn’t been treated as a priority in sport – from grassroots through to high-performance level.

“We talk about strength and conditioning as being a priority and we put so much time and emphasis on skill and tactical development,” she says. “Yet our health is the driver of our bodies - and if we're not even touching on what’s happening with our bodies, we’re running into trouble. And that can be trouble now, or later in life when we want to start families.

“With my teacher’s hat on, we educate our girls early on in schools around puberty, but then the conversation goes on hold. You can't assume that our athletes know everything about their bodies - there's no harm in relearning or refreshing as well.”

Ebrahim, who played rugby for Canterbury before her daughter’s birth, was the culture and leadership manager for the Otago Spirit women's rugby side in the Farah Palmer Cup this season and saw “recurring patterns” in some players' health. She knew something needed to be done.

“It alerted me these girls needed help and education, and that starts from being aware and then upskilling ourselves as management,” she says. She’s organised a workshop around women’s health through the University of Otago.

“I'm highly invested in this because I've been through it all.” 

Ebrahim admits there was a lot she didn’t know about her body until she’d had her daughter. “Imagine the athlete I could have been if I’d known when I was much younger,” she says.

Kicking down barriers

Earlier this year, Sport NZ listened to young women talk about their fear of judgment and anxiety around their bodies.

“When you’re dealing with your menstrual cycle and trying to stay active, it can present a range of different barriers for young people,” Maddi McLean, the women and girls lead at Sport NZ, says.

“We want to give them some information that might help them on their journey. And hearing from the experiences of others is a really powerful way we can start to normalise conversations around our bodies and start to address that fear of judgment which can be a barrier to participation.”

During the FIFA World Cup, more than 250 students were part of the Hine o te Kura youth symposium in Auckland, with the goal to ‘change the game on menstrual inequity’.

“We realised the opportunity we had with the FIFA Women's World Cup to really leverage the platform that event provided and think about elevating a conversation around something that's not really talked about so often - to reduce some of the stigma around menstruation,” McLean says.

Sport NZ women and girls lead Maddi McLean. Photo: Sport NZ

Sport NZ had already begun putting together their Flow On Effect initiative with the same purpose. Sports organisations were asking for resources they could use to educate around female health, especially at the community level. “And rangatahi are actually really interested in learning more about their bodies too,” McLean says.

The Flow on Effect now has an online site featuring resources, the voices of young women and their experiences with menstruation while keeping active, and a list of sports organisations already doing something about it.

A handbook for coaches, instructors and parents to better understand female health was borne out of a Netball NZ and ACC collaboration, then turned it into a “more broad and holistic” resource for community sport.

“We looked at the key things parents, coaches and instructors were asking questions about - puberty and development, the menstrual cycle, how we can be supporting young people's wellbeing whether it's physical, mental or social,” McLean says. She’s hoping the handbook will be adopted in schools, too.

They’ve also launched a video case study on NZ Cricket’s decision to ditch traditional white uniforms for female athletes, to make them more confident and comfortable to stay in sport. The Football Ferns are another example of a high-profile team, who switched to black and teal shorts for this year’s World Cup, and some had period leak protection integrated into the kit. That's now filtered down to club football sides.

“When I was playing hockey, we were often wearing light-coloured skirts,” McLean says. “And if you were on your period, you didn't want to be worried about leaking. It took your focus a little bit away from what you were out there to do, to go and play. So the positive shifts we're seeing in the move away from white and light-coloured uniforms will benefit the generations playing sport now as well as future generations."

Understanding ikura

Fifteen-year-old basketballer Fern Taiapa wants other girls to understand their period isn’t something to be embarrassed about.

“A lot of girls feel so whakama [shame], but it shouldn’t be this western point of view of hiding away when you get your period. All women get it and it’s something to be proud of,” says the Pukekohe High student who sees menstruation from a Te Ao Māori perspective, where it’s cause for celebration, not shame.

Fern Taiapa (left) speaking at the Hine o te Kura Youth Symposium in June. Photo: Sport NZ

When she took up rowing, she decided to follow tikanga (traditional values) and stay off the water when she was on her period. “It’s part of my culture that when you have your ikura [period] you're not allowed on the water because the blood flow is tapu,” says Taiapa, who spoke to other students at the youth symposium.

“It was a really tough conversation to have with my coach, who’s a man. He was like ‘Oh, are you sure you're not just trying to get out of training?’ And I said, ‘No, sir. This is real serious’.  He was actually super understanding and put me on the rowing erg for a week’s training off the water.”

Her decision brought up challenges – like getting her period while competing at a regatta. “There’s a fine line between playing your sport and your tikanga,” says Taiapa. “I ended up racing, but I felt real paru [yukky] afterwards.”

She’s now focusing on basketball, playing for the Counties-Manukau U17 side, and faces challenges in that sport too.  “We’re so self-conscious of wearing like lighter colours - because sometimes you have to wear reversible [uniforms] – and you might leak through your shorts,” she says.

(A survey of 4000 British teenage girls last year revealed 78 percent of girls who used to be sporty admitted they avoided playing when on their period - three-quarters of them because of pain, while almost two-thirds feared leaking.)

Taiapa strongly believes education around ikura should start earlier in schools in Aotearoa. “I was fortunate enough to get my period at the age of nine, but I had no idea what I was doing. So I think the conversation should start in primary school,” she says.

“It’s still not an open conversation that people are having. All women get it – it something we all have in common - and all girls should just embrace it. I feel like it’s just another way women are a little bit oppressed. There's so much conversation that needs to be had about it.”

Bringing Flow on Effect to life

Across the road from Pukekohe High is the Pukekohe Football Club, where the Flow On Effect is about to take effect.

Celia Kavanagh’s daughter, Felicity, is football-mad and plays in one of the club’s two U14 girls teams. Kavanagh worked with Sport NZ during the FIFA World Cup on the leverage and legacy project, and wanted to see it “brought to life” at the community sports level.

“I wanted the legacy of the FIFA tournament to be more than ‘We went to some games, wasn’t it amazing?’ and see it make a tangible difference,” she says.

Felicity Kavanagh playing for her Pukekohe AFC U14 football side. Photo: Supplied. 

As owner of thinAir, a Kiwi company specialising in revolutionary oxygen therapy, Kavanagh decided to kit out both U14 girls teams with pairs of period underwear, and run a health and wellbeing session at the club.

“We want to use football as a vehicle to empower our rangatahi and wāhine to be active and look after themselves,” she says. “As a parent of a daughter who loves football, I don’t want to leave education, awareness of the different products now available, and the importance of being active and taking care of yourself, to chance.”

While there’s now a wider range of period products – like reusable period underwear, period cups, organic pads and tampons – cost remains an obstacle for some young women. So Kavanagh approached New Zealand brand AWWA, who make sustainable period-proof underwear, and she will donate three pairs to each of the U14 Pukekohe girls.

“It removes the cost barrier for these girls, and they can use the underwear through their cycle, be kind to their bodies and remove sanitary products from landfill,” Kavanagh says.

She sees the Flow on Effect as "a great conversation starter", that will change the attitudes of coaches and the outcomes for young women for the better.

Mystery injury reinvents new White Fern

A shift of focus from ball to bat has given Bella Armstrong a golden opportunity to make her mark on international cricket. She talks to Merryn Anderson ahead of her potential White Ferns debut this month. 

When Bella Armstrong woke up one morning and couldn’t move her arm, she could never have guessed a freak injury would eventually lead her to the White Ferns. 

Always selected for cricket teams as a bowler growing up, Armstrong injured her right shoulder – her bowling arm – three years ago.

“I don’t actually know how it happened, weirdly. I woke up one morning and couldn’t lift my arm, had no strength in it, just incredible pain,” the 23-year-old explains. 

A contracted member of the Auckland Hearts, Armstrong was worried her inability to bowl would rule her out of playing. But instead, she managed to make a new name for herself with the bat. 

“It would have been easy for a coach to just write me off at the time, put me in the injured box and not really look twice. But I was pretty fortunate to have a coach who backed me to play as a batter,” she says. 

That was Hearts coach Nick White, who'd been involved in Armstrong’s career since she was 15. 

“He had trust in me to go out there and play purely as a batter, which I hadn’t really done too much of leading up to that,” she says. 

Armstrong couldn’t even throw that season, having to hurl the ball underarm with her right arm. She still has lasting nerve damage from the injury, shooting pain affecting her in certain actions, but she’s working her way back into bowling as well. 

“I really enjoyed that season, even though I was missing such a huge component of my game. But it’s probably pushed me the last two years to keep going," she says. 

*New White Fern’s call that changed everything
*Young quick scores tricks from new Ferns coach

Last week, Armstrong was announced as one of two new faces in the White Ferns team to tour South Africa for three ODIs and five T20s – mostly thanks to her efforts at the batting crease over the past season. 

She was in Ireland, playing club cricket with former Hearts teammate and current Ireland international Arlene Kelly, when the call from Ferns head coach Ben Sawyer came through. Armstrong was initially confused – “I wasn't even remotely thinking White Ferns to be honest,” she admits. 

After texting her cricket-mad brother, Cam, Armstrong had a restless night before being able to deliver the news in person to her visiting parents the next morning. 

Although the call-up had come as a surprise at this point of Armstrong's career, becoming a White Fern had been a dream of Armstrong’s for a while. She'd made the Hearts team at just 15, playing alongside White Ferns like Sara McGlashan, Vic Lind, Lauren Down and Maddy Green – the latter returning to Auckland this year after a stint in Wellington. 

Armstrong started playing in the backyard with her brother and dad at a young age, and joined Cornwall Cricket Club when she was five. “Mainly because I didn’t want to be watching my brother on a Saturday morning, I’d much rather be playing,” Armstrong laughs. 

It wasn’t until she made the Auckland U21 team at the age of 15 that she realised she could take cricket further. She was the top wicket-taker at the 2015 national U21 tournament (with 13 wickets) and was asked to join the Hearts for the 2015/16 season. She’s been there ever since, ascending from the youngest by several years to one of the more experienced players. 

“Cricket is a pretty tough sport to play if you’re not enjoying it and the girls in the Auckland team have always made it such a fun and enjoyable environment," Armstrong says. "I think you play your best cricket when you’re having fun."

Armstrong hopes to continue to build back her bowling, to become a batting all-rounder. Photo: Getty Images

She had a standout season with the bat last summer, including hitting 71 from 34 balls in a match against the Hinds to power to a 10-run win in the Super Smash. 

Armstrong credits her mindset for her performances last season. With many changes in the Hearts environment, she had a fresh perspective. 

“I was almost able to focus on performance more – sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your own head,” she explains. 

“I’d like to say it probably paid off a bit, had a few performances I was pretty proud of and I think that’s probably played quite a big part to me sitting at [White Ferns] camp today.

“I think when your mind’s clear is when you play your best sport ... going into this coming season, it’s about how do I replicate that kind of thing and make it more consistent.” 

White left the Hearts head coach role in 2022, but Armstrong describes him as one of the biggest influences on her career. 

“I hate to think how many hours he spent throwing cricket balls at me,” she laughs. “I still flick him a message every now and then, and he still offers a bit of advice which is cool.” 

Rob Nicol has taken over the role, and has already helped Armstrong a lot in his first season as head coach. 

“He’s challenged me in different ways, probably ways I haven’t thought about previously, which is cool. It’s kind of what you hope for when you get a new coach, is that they spot something different,” Armstrong says. 

She leaves for South Africa with the New Zealand-based White Ferns on Sunday, joining up with head coach Sawyer and some of the key players who've been busy in overseas leagues. She can't wait for the whole group to finally get together.

“The camp has been amazing, the girls have been great, very welcoming. It’s been a lot of work physically and mentally but in the best way,” Armstrong says. 

She’s expected to bat somewhere in the middle order, with players like Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates and Melie Kerr above her. 

“I’m pretty excited to play with Maddy Green again, she left the Hearts a few years ago now and she’s always been someone who I’ve enjoyed playing with,” says Armstrong.

“The main thing for me is trying to tap into all the knowledge that’s in the team and the staff to be honest. Some of those girls have played huge amounts of cricket in so many different countries, so the more I can learn off them, the better I’ll get.” 

Armstrong picked up a lot from her time in Ireland, playing in the Evoke Super Series. Her 163 not out in a 50-over match was a record for the highest individual score in the competition’s history. Coming from 134 balls, Armstrong struck 19 fours and one six, smashing her Dragons team to victory. 

“I’ve always looked to do a winter playing somewhere else, I wasn’t too fussed where because I think there’s so much growth on and off the field. It’s not just about the cricket for me,” she explains. 

“From a preparation point of view, I think playing on grass consistently, one to two times a week was mega important and so much better than being in the indoor nets. 

“Also just dealing with those game pressures. It’s pretty hard to replicate in training, so to be able to go out and play when other people are training, is pretty cool. There were so many more challenges you don’t really face here, with different pitch conditions, different players you’d never heard of, so you’re exposed to a bit more which is cool. It really pushed me outside of my comfort zone a bit which is what you want in life.” 

Armstrong doesn’t mind the pressures of the game, even with the new title of White Fern soon to be attached to her name. 

“I actually quite enjoy a bit of pressure, it probably focuses me a bit more on the task in front of me,” she says. “I don’t really get too worried about that kind of thing because I know I can almost put it into my performance.” 

Putting her study on hold this year to play in Ireland and now for the White Ferns, Armstrong hopes to finish her sport science degree next year, studying distanced through Massey University. 

But for now, her focus is cricket, with her long-term goal to be considered a batting all-rounder adding value to whatever team she plays in. 

*The White Ferns play three ODIs against South Africa, starting on September 24, before five T20s in October. 

A new start for a long cricket career

A Wellington double code star switches to cricket for Hawkes Bay and is relishing the lifestyle and training opportunities, writes Aiden McLaughlin

At the age of 28, recent Central Hinds signing Thamsyn Newton has left her roots behind to explore life and sport in Hawkes Bay.

A dual code star, Newton was a cornerstone of the Wellington Blaze squad over two spells (2011-2014 and 2018-2023), as well as the Wellington Pride rugby union team, but was actually born in Central Districts territory; Paraparaumu on the Kāpiti Coast is part of the Horowhenua-Kāpiti district association, one of eight district associations that makes up the most widely spread major association In the country.

Newton relocated to the coastal village of Waimārama in April this year, where her partner runs a surf school. After the move, she initially worked remotely, and, by finishing by lunchtime each day, Newton was able to wander down to the beach each afternoon to enjoy that surf as well; but she quickly felt that she needed to make more of an effort to get out and about in her new region.

With the help of her Personal Development Manager at the NZ Cricket Players Association, Newton was successful in applying for a role at BBI Wood Products in Hastings, where she has worked full-time for the last couple of months.

Conveniently, her new job is less than 4 km from the Mitre 10 Sports Park, which is now the main hub for the Central Hinds and Central Stags squads. There are plenty of long days, but her ongoing passion for cricket makes it worth it. Newton trains from 6am-7am at the Sports Park twice a week with a trainer before heading off to work, and also ensures she has three other training sessions a week along, with a net session over an extended lunch break once a week as well.

“Before I decided I was going to sign with the Hinds, the new facilities made things a lot easier. Dave [Meiring, Central Districts Manager, High Performance] gave me a call and he was pretty keen to take me around the facilities, so that was pretty impressive and I think it just made things a lot easier,” says Newton.

“It’s just the convenience of it all. You can go to one place. You’ve got indoor nets, you’ve got outdoor nets, you’ve got the gym, you’ve got the pool, the running track. I don’t know how many places you’d find in New Zealand that have all of that in one location. It’s made things a whole lot easier, being only 10 minutes from work,” she says.

Although Newton’s able to get to her training facilities relatively easily, the unique geographical spread of her Hinds teammates means that outside of the playing season, the full squad don’t really get together apart from specific training camps. Others, such as White Fern Hannah Rowe, have also moved to Hawkes Bay, but at the other end of the spectrum, a newcomer to the Hinds contracted list, Flora Devonshire, is in the South Island, studying at the University of Canterbury. For Newton, it’s very different from the Wellington Blaze set-up where most of the squad were based in the capital.

“It is a big change not being part of a centralised programme. Your team trains after work and then you go to the gym before mahi with nine or 10 girls who are playing in the team so it’s so different here,” says Newton.

“I think it’s great, you’ve got to just be a bit more accountable for getting yourself to the gym, trying to link in and you’ve got to organise a lot more; organising your training times, and trying to fit that in with mahi as well, so it’s good. I think being older you get a bit more independent and I’ve had to be a lot more organised and not just expect to have those two trainings a week that we can train together as a team and train on grass, I’ve got to do that myself,” she says.

Newton brings a wealth of experience to her new team. 107 List A one-dayers, including 10 ODIs for the White Ferns as well as 115 T20s, including 15 T20 Internationals and 14 Women’s Big Bash appearances for the Perth Scorchers.

Newton with former teammate Suzie Bates

“It's definitely been a long career, or at least it feels like that. Wellington’s just been a huge part of my life. I was born and raised there. Whether I go back or not, life can change pretty quickly, but I’m grateful to have been part of such an awesome organisation,” says Newton.

“I think in the last few years it’s been the leader in the development of the women’s game, with their full-time coach, their investment in women’s sport, I’ve been pretty lucky to have been part of that movement with them and I think with a bit more professionalism and money coming into the women’s game as well I think you’re probably going to see a lot of shifts, in terms of girls just moving teams to try and get more opportunities, so, I think it’s just the start of that happening,” she says.

When she made the move earlier this year, Newton didn’t forget to pack her rugby boots and mouthguard, and got straight into club rugby in Hawkes Bay, playing a full, albeit short, club season at fullback for Clive.

“I actually bloody loved playing footy this season. Clive’s where my partner plays and her Dad played for Clive too so I was only ever allowed to join that club. I did think it might be fun to play against each other but that didn’t go down too well,” Newton says, laughing.

“We managed to make the finals but unfortunately, we didn’t quite get over the line, losing to Napier Tech. I’ll definitely still stick around the club scene [next season] for sure.

With the newly promoted Hawkes Bay Tui having made the semi-finals of the Farah Palmer Cup premiership this season, would Newton be tempted to put herself forward for selection next season?

“Depending on how life goes and how work goes, I’ll wait until the season rolls around and see what’s happening. I don’t plan too far forward. I take things in their stride, see how it goes and give it a crack,” Newton says.

“They [the Tui] had some awesome crowds. I was so stoked for them and they played some awesome footy too. At the end of the day, they only play five games of club footy too, so to be able to produce what they did is pretty outstanding. You get promoted and you make top four. Imagine what they could have done if they’d had more games,” she says.

In the immediate future, Newton’s sporting attentions are firmly fixed on the Hinds as pre-season training really kicks into gear, and she’s relishing it.

“It’s definitely a younger team, it’s not as star-studded as the Wellington Blaze but that brings new challenges and new excitement,” says Newton.

“At the end of the day my career goal is pretty simple in the fact that I just want to add value to any team that I’m a part of and however big or small that looks is dependent on what the team needs and if I can give it on that day and at that time.”

Lifeline kept new Ferns keeper in football

An unfortunate run of injuries for a teammate gave footballer Brianna Edwards an opportunity to prove herself in goal. Now the keeper is bringing her new confidence to the Football Ferns. 

In 2021, the Wellington Phoenix threw Brianna Edwards a lifeline when she was in danger of quitting football. The goalkeeper grabbed it, hauled herself out of an unhappy situation and established herself as one of the best keepers in a country she'd never lived in before.

Now she's off to Chile, representing her new nation as part of the Football Ferns. 

Born and raised in Sydney, Edwards moved to the United States to play college football and found herself falling out of love with the game. 

“I really wasn’t happy and I honestly said to my mum ‘I don’t really care if I don’t play, I just want to come home’,” the 20-year-old explains. 

*Phoenix pocket rocket playing for herself
*Veteran Fern thrilled to return - as a Phoenix

Eligible to represent New Zealand through her Kiwi-born dad, playing for the newly-established Phoenix women's side hadn’t been on Edwards’ radar. 

“But as soon as [an offer to play] popped up, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass,” she says. 

“I always say the Phoenix saved me from not wanting to play football anymore. So when I signed, it was an easy decision. It was an easy 'yes' to an opportunity I wasn’t expecting.” 

In her first season with the Phoenix, Covid protocols meant the team were based in Wollongong, not far from Edwards’ family in Sydney. Brianna’s twin sister, Siobhan, also plays football, after their mum wanted them to play a team sport that wasn’t netball as kids. 

Edwards played just two games of the Phoenix's inaugural season, as captain Lily Alfeld took the goalie gloves. But a string of injuries ruled Alfeld out in 2022-23 – and the upcoming season – giving Edwards an opportunity to further develop her game. 

Naturally, it created conflicting feelings for Edwards, who was devastated for her teammate. 

“Lily and I are really, really good friends, which sometimes is quite unique for goalkeepers to be close, but we are. From the first season, she’s always been my role model,” she says. 

“When she told me she wasn’t going to be able to play, the first thing she said was ‘This is your chance, this is your opportunity, you got it’. She was more excited for me than I was.

“Even now, I’m still gutted for her, but I know this is my time to take the opportunities I have in front of me and run with them as far as I can and use them to my advantage.” 

Edwards (right) with Lily Alfeld, one of her biggest supporters. Photo: Getty Images

Edwards was full of nerves last season, the step-up unexpected and creating added pressures mentally – especially as a keeper. 

“Goalkeeping is 100 percent a mental game, being able to bounce back after conceding, or keeping your head in the game when we score or trying to manage all those emotions and all those moments in games,” she explains. 

“It was something I hadn’t really done at a high level before and that was probably the biggest step-up. I think it took a few games to really get the gist of it, but after a while, I feel like I thrive in that. That’s where I want to be and that’s why we play.” 

Edwards was selected in the training programme for the Football Ferns’ build-up to the FIFA World Cup earlier this year. And while she didn’t make the final 23, the time spent training alongside New Zealand’s best was a dream come true. 

“If you had told me a year before that I would be in contention for a World Cup, I probably would have laughed and thought you were joking,” she says. 

“But it was really cool, it was such a great environment to be around.” 

Edwards returned home to Sydney during the tournament, and watched the Football Ferns’ opening game sitting in the stands for the Matildas game, proudly wearing her Ferns jersey. 

“I was cheering for them and honestly when that final whistle blew, I felt a part of that," she says. "That’s what the Ferns is about and that’s what I felt, going through that camp with them.” 

And now, getting the call-up from head coach Jitka Klimková for the Football Ferns’ team to play two matches against Chile, was another unexpected surprise. 

“When Jitka rang me and told me I was going away with them, I honestly didn’t even know what to say,” Edwards admits. 

“I’m really excited to push myself, and work with [fellow keepers] Vic [Esson] and Anna [Leat] and get the best out of that environment that I can. To be a part of international games and to be a part of the Ferns, it’s just a dream and I’m really grateful. I honestly can’t wait.” 

Edwards comes into the squad ahead of 83-cap Ferns keeper Erin Nayler, who's easing her workload after dealing with a hip injury. She's also just signed as back-up keeper for German giants Bayern Munich.

While Edwards’ sudden thrust into the first-choice goalkeeper for the Phoenix helped develop her game, it also her boosted her belief in her own abilities. 

“With playing and game time comes confidence and I think my confidence just grew and grew over the last season,” she says. 

“Being in those high pressure environments and training at high levels more often, you get that kind of confidence and you know you can do whatever you put your mind to. 

“My biggest improvement last season was my confidence and backing myself in those moments.” 

Edwards makes a save for the Phoenix. Photo: Getty Images

When Edwards signed on with the Phoenix for this season, she didn’t know Alfeld was ruled out, or who the other goalkeepers on the team were going to be. 

“The point of playing is to fight for your spot and be the best in that moment in the team, and it doesn’t matter who was playing, whether Lily was back or not,” Edwards says. 

“I want to be a first-choice goalkeeper so whether that means I’m competing against someone who already is a number one or someone who maybe is perceived as a number two, either way the competition is there and I want to keep pushing myself.” 

The Phoenix won just two games in their inaugural season, losing 11 and finishing with seven points. Last season, they managed to win three and drew four. It wasn’t enough to raise them off the bottom rung of the ladder, with 13 points, but the team looked much improved. 

This year, they have a new coach – former Phoenix Academy technical director Paul Temple taking the reins for the next two seasons. 

Pre-season work has only just begun, but Edwards is enjoying the new-look side already. 

“The quality of the sessions has been really good and I think that’s just going to keep getting better as we keep going through pre-season and as we get into the season,” she says. 

“Obviously having new coaching staff, everything’s going to feel a bit different but some change is good. I think this season is going to be really positive and we’re going to get the best out of each other as players, and as coaches as well.” 

Edwards will travel to Chile with Phoenix teammates Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor and Grace Wisnewski, but has grown close to a lot of the Ferns at previous training camps. 

“I’m the kind of person who makes friends with everyone, to be honest. But obviously going with the Phoenix girls, Wiz [Wisnewski] and I are really close so going all together, it’s just really cool,” Edwards says. 

Edwards is the only uncapped member of the squad, which has seen four members of the World Cup team out, and five fresh faces in. 

She’ll bring her youthful energy to the team, and is eager to soak it all in. 

“I feel like I’m a big ball of energy constantly and I’m really excited for everything all the time,” Edwards says. 

“A lot of energy and personality to give and to share around, that’s probably how people would describe me. Just a lot of energy.” 

*The Football Ferns will play two matches against Chile - the first on Sunday, September 24, at 11am NZT. The second match will be played behind closed doors the following Wednesday (27th). 

**Football Ferns team: CJ Bott, Katie Bowen, Claudia Bunge, Olivia Chance, Milly Clegg, Brianna Edwards, Victoria Esson, Michaela Foster, Ally Green, Jacqui Hand, Betsy Hassett, Grace Jale, Anna Leat, Annalie Longo, Grace Neville, Gabi Rennie, Ali Riley, Indiah-Paige Riley, Paige Satchell, Malia Steinmetz, Rebekah Stott, Kate Taylor, Hannah Wilkinson, Grace Wisnewski. 

Gender equality: Are we there yet?

When will women's success and inclusion stop being extraordinary?

Forty years ago, one of the first stories I wrote for a newspaper was about a woman working on a road crew. 

A woman! Fancy that! 

There were other stories in a similar vein after that. Air New Zealand's first female pilot in 1986, our first female Governor-General in 1990, and, of course, our first woman Prime Minister in 1997.

Since then there's been an avalanche of other firsts, expectations raised by the profiling and publicity, and the continuation of the 'girls can do anything' message. 

Now with the success of three women's world cup hosting jobs behind us, and the whole country's embrace of the action, has New Zealand hit peak equality? Can I stop writing these 'first' stories? 

"It's a tricky one, isn't it?" says associate professor of communication at Massey University Susan Fountaine, who keeps a close eye on how women are portrayed in the news.

"News is about the novel, the new, the first things to happen; and perhaps unfortunately in the gender environment that means we do have this emphasis on the first women to do particular things. 

"I guess, and I hope, and I really like to think that the media is starting to normalise more the achievements of women, and I think we're seeing that particularly in politics." 

Having high-profile politicians, in particular female prime ministers, has had payoffs in terms of women's visibility in the media. 

"I don't think the progress is always linear," says Fountaine, "but I do feel like there are moves towards normalisation in some of those achievements." 

Fountaine speaks to The Detail today about the risk of the women we're elevating being turned into superwomen who people can't relate to – which is why diversity of voices in the media is so important. 

"A role model has a better chance of being influential if they're somehow relatable to the person who's seeing them."

She's also concerned that some of her journalism students are becoming complacent, in that they seem to think all the battles have been won.  

The Detail also speaks to Niamh Barraud, a qualified builder who runs her own company, Windy City Builders, and is on the board of NZ Certified Builders. 

The organisation is launching a programme designed to provide wrap-around support to apprentices and their employers, which includes matching female trades trainees up with mentors. 

It comes at a time when the industry is trying to widen its recruiting pool – and women are a largely untapped resource. 

"It's a battle that every institution in the industry is focusing on now because diversity is becoming a much more important part of the industry," she says.

Officially, women in construction are 14 percent of the industry – which doesn't sound too bad until you realise most of those jobs are in support services. Barraud estimates the number of women on the tools is more like 3 percent.  

She says we need to show women it's possible, and that includes images that normalise women on work sites, who have their tool belts on and are not the client or the builder's wife. 

"We have to show girls that this is a viable career option ... we have to show their parents that it's a viable career option ... and we have to normalise the presence of women on site so that employers and colleagues value women on site." 

Barraud also talks about the barriers still blocking women from a career in construction, including the strange reasons employers still use to not employ them. 

If there's one series of events that's made great strides in equality, it's the trio of highly successful world cups New Zealand's just hosted and co-hosted. 

Former Olympian heptathlete Sarah Cowley Ross, who writes for Newsroom's LockerRoom, has seen a real shift in the portrayal of women's sport and female athletes over that time. 

She talks to The Detail about how she sees generational change through the attitudes of her children, who don't distinguish between men or women playing sport – because it's all good. 

Listen to the full episode.

Check out how to listen to and follow The Detail here.  

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