The Dominion Tournament
From the mid-1920s the main domestic competition was the annual Dominion Tournament between provinces, and the premier trophy was the New Zealand Cup. In 1932, because of increasing numbers of teams, the tournament was split into two grades, in 1936 into three and in 1958 into four.
In 2012 the national netball championship continued this tradition. It featured the top regional sides, and there were corresponding age-group championships. There was also a national secondary schools competition and a trans-Tasman secondary school tournament.
Lois Muir Challenge
Since 2008 one of the highest-profile domestic events has been the Lois Muir Challenge, involving the most promising New Zealand players and acting as a feeder for the ANZ Championship.
The 2008 introduction of the ANZ Championship – a joint initiative by Netball New Zealand and Netball Australia – took the sport into a new semi-professional era, and further lifted the profile of the game in Australasia. Involving the top echelon of players in five franchise teams from each country, the competition was played on either side of the Tasman over four months, with more than 11 million television viewers and live attendance figures of 224,000 across a season.
New Zealand was represented by the Northern Mystics, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, Central Pulse, Canterbury Tactix and Southern Steel. Players for these teams and the Silver Ferns could now make a career (and the stars a living) from the sport. The last ANZ Championship was contested in 2016, and from 2017 the two countries had separate elite competitions. In New Zealand’s ANZ Premiership, the five existing teams were joined by a second Auckland-based team, the Northern Stars.
As a curtain-raiser to the ANZ Championship, a televised College Netball league raised the profile of younger players. Secondary school teams from around New Zealand competed in rounds before a grand final decided the winner.
Stamping on our fingers
The ongoing struggle between Australia and New Zealand was summed up by former Silver Ferns captain Bernice Mene: ‘It seems every time we thought we were reaching the top of the ladder, there are green and gold shoes stamping on our fingers.’1
Across the ditch rivalry
At the top level, little separates New Zealand and Australia on court. Following the first international match between the two nations in 1938, there were many other fiercely contested games. By 2020 the two nations had met 151 times. The Australians had won 95 of these tests, and the New Zealanders 54; two games had been drawn. Of these encounters, 68 had been decided by five goals or less. Extra time has sometimes been needed to determine a winner.
Since 2010 the Silver Ferns and the Australian Diamonds have met annually to contest the Constellation Cup, usually in a four-test series.