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ANN CONDER

Well, it will be no news to anyone to hear me say that I am over the moon with pride for the resilience, perseverance, courage and commitment that the Silver Ferns showed during their World Cup campaign.

Their teamwork provided support and encouragement to each other and gave them the edge to take out the title. The late nights and early mornings were certainly well worth it.

The Silver Ferns have captured the hearts of young and old alike, providing entertainment through joy, through suspense and through sheer hard work.

The influence and popularity of the ANZ teams and the Silver Ferns is reflected locally in the number of primary teams who are called Ferns (7 teams), Steel (2) and Magic (2).

These youngsters will have been watching their idols on screen over the past week, along with all “Netball Nuts”.

Young players came up to me on Monday to say “Did you watch the netball – wasn’t it awesome!”

Of course, we were always watching the Silver Ferns, but gosh the calibre of netball internationally has certainly lifted, with teams like Uganda and Zimbabwe slowly but surely lifting their places in the international ratings.

There are the definite top teams but the gaps between the lower teams are becoming narrower and the results harder to predict.

This has to be good for the future of the game.

There was no netball in Alexandra over the school holidays so a few of the oldies had a catch-up over lunch.

Of course, the Netball World Cup was the main topic of conversation, closely followed by the many memories that are evoked when we get together.

Our associations go back over 40 years to the night when the Molyneux Netball Club was established, and have followed all of us into administration positions within the Central Otago Netball realm.

At the table were two Netball NZ Service Award holders, four Central Otago and Netball South life members, five Central Otago service award holders, and all of them are still involved in Central Otago Netball in some way.

We ask: why are we still there?

There are a number of answers, but always the first response is the people, the camaraderie and the fun we have had.

Second is the love we all have for this great game that is available to all levels of player, and that can still be played by people into their 50s.

Netball throughout New Zealand is in good hands, but there is a place for “fossilettes” – a term used by the Silver Ferns for the oldies in their team – here in Central Otago and throughout New Zealand; those who don’t have any direct reason for being there other than the friendships and love of the game.

Throughout the season I have mentioned the different programmes played at primary-school level and I thought I’d take the opportunity to briefly enlighten readers about each of these programmes.

The year 1/2 programme introduces 5- and 6-year-olds to the game with six weeks of skill sessions followed by a four-against-four game to consolidate those skills.

They play with a smaller ball and adapted goals.

Coaches are generally young mums who have been involved in netball prior to their children starting to play.

This year, Abbie Sutherland co-ordinated the year 1/2 programme, and these players met at the same time each Saturday.

The year 3/4 sessions aim to teach the basics of netball by ensuring the players have as many touches of the ball as possible.

They are organised into teams for the season and play a five-against-five game after their skills time, using two thirds of the netball court. A Central Otago Netball Centre-appointed coach oversees this programme, but teams also practise during the week.

Year 5/6 players have by now developed basic skills and are starting to put some structure into their game in a six-a-side adapted format.

Still using a size four netball and lower hoops, the game allows more movement around the court and more touches of the ball.

The full court is used and players are starting to gain a knowledge of court positions.

There is quite a jump to the year 7/8 players who are playing full-court seven-a-side netball with all international rules being enforced.

The full competition starts again this week with games starting at 10am at Molyneux Courts.