There have been many netball stars over the years. Some remain particularly well known because of their contribution to the sport as players, coaches and administrators.
Lois Muir has played a part in most of the significant changes in netball history. Born in Mataura, Southland, she became a formidable defender, and was chosen for the first New Zealand seven-a-side team in 1960. She was vice-captain of the national team at the first world championships in 1963, and coached it for 15 years from 1974.
Instrumental in securing the first sponsorship deals for the sport, Muir was president of Netball New Zealand from 2007 until 2011. She was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004.
New Zealand netball has been repeatedly honoured in the annual Halberg Awards. The Silver Ferns were named the Team of the Year in 1987, 2003 and 2019, and New Zealand coaches Lois Muir, Lyn Gunson (formerly Parker), Ruth Aitken and Noeline Taurua have all received Coach of the Year awards. In 2003 Irene van Dyk was named New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year. The 2003 and 2019 supreme Halberg Awards went to the Silver Ferns for their world-championship-winning performances. In addition, Muir, Joan Harnett, Waimarama Taumaunu, Sandra Edge, Rita Fatialofa and Lesley Rumball (Nicol), and the 1967 and 1987 world-championship-winning teams, are inductees to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.
Irene van Dyk
Irene van Dyk went from villain to hero in New Zealand netball history. In 1995 the tall young South African sharpshooter helped the Proteas win an upset victory over the Silver Ferns, denying them a place in the world-championship final. In 2000 van Dyk moved to New Zealand and played her first international in the black and silver dress.
Van Dyk’s astonishing shooting skills – she occasionally shot with 100% accuracy in a match – took her to a world record 217 test caps by the time she retired in 2014, including 72 for South Africa. In 2009 she was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
A shooter in the New Zealand team at the 1979 world championships, Paeroa-born Ruth Aitken was appointed coach of the Silver Ferns in 2001. Over the next decade, the Ferns had 87 wins and a 78% success record, including the 2003 world title and two Commonwealth Games gold medals.
In 2011, the year she retired as coach, Aitken became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and took on a new role as Netball New Zealand Coaching Director.
Renowned for her indomitable style, Wai Taumaunu was a New Zealand representative from 1981. The astute defender played in the national side for 10 years, including at three world championships, and was captain for three years. She was also a stalwart of Wellington netball.
Taumaunu became assistant coach of the Silver Ferns in 2008 and succeeded Aitken as head coach in 2011. With Taumaunu at the helm, the Silver Ferns won the Constellation Cup for the first time in 2012. Away from the court, she has worked on government initiatives to boost sport, including developing coaching and Māori sport, and sitting on the governing board of SPARC (now Sport New Zealand).
Regarded as one of the best defenders the netball world has seen, Casey Williams (now Kopua) was also lauded for her leadership skills. She was part of the New Zealand under-21 team that won the 2005 World Youth Championship, and won gold with the Silver Ferns at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games. She captained the Silver Ferns from 2009 to 2014, and in 2011 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She ended her career as a key member of the Silver Ferns team which won the world cup in 2019.
Casey Williams’s near-contemporary Laura Langman captained both the victorious 2005 youth team and the 2019 world-cup winning Silver Ferns. She also won gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games. Langman retired from international netball in 2020 with a New Zealand record 163 test caps, the first 141 in succession. The athletic mid-courter achieved a unique double by winning the trans-Tasman league with Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in 2012 and the Australian league with Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2017.