More than just a name: Maria still adjusting to life as a Folau

The reality of married life is only just hitting home with Silver Ferns netball star Maria Folau (nee Tuitaia) as she prepares for next month's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

After a 13-year international career, this campaign has a distinctly different feel about it. In her fourth Commonwealth Games, this will be the first in which she's taken the court with her new surname emblazoned across the back of her black dress, after her marriage to Australian cross-code superstar Israel Folau in November.

The 57-test veteran admits she's still coming to terms with this "weirdly" sentimental transition, despite having already debuted her new name during January's Quad Series.

"I had a wee moment at the dress presentation yesterday at Netball New Zealand," she told Newshub.  "It's very emotional.

"[Tutaia] has been a massive part of my life... but I'm a married woman now, so I kind of have to get used to it."

While the 31-year-old is adamant that these Commonwealth Games will be her last, she's also acutely aware that they'll also be her first as a Folau, which has given her a renewed sense of enthusiasm, as she chases her third gold medal.

"Although it's definitely my last - I'm making that loud and clear - I'm treating it as my first, because it is a different experience for me.

"It definitely does feel different and Izzy [Israel] has been cool. He's been so supportive.

"Life does go on, I'll always have Tutaia in my heart."

Adding to that is the injection of youth in a fresh-faced Silver Ferns squad heading across the Tasman.

"A lot of these girls have never been to a Commonwealth Games, so to see them super excited and to see the elation within them reminds me of how special this moment really is."

More than just a name: Maria still adjusting to life as a Folau
Photo credit: Photosport

It's been a trying few months for the side, after a disappointing third-place finish in the Quad Series and a humiliating Constellation Cup sweep at the hands of the Australians.

But their vice-captain believes they've since made unparalleled progress, following an open and honest dissection of recent shortcomings.

"After the Quad Series in January, we all sat down and soul-searched, but also voiced what we needed to do, and we were straight up with another and everyone has implemented that within the camps we've had.

"We're making some huge progressions, more so than ever... everyone's being super-supportive of each other and really walking the talk."

Folau also looks to be past the worst of her nagging knee injury, anticipating she'll be cleared to play the Taini Jamieson opener against Malawi on Wednesday.

As for her name conundrum, her sister offered Folau a novel, yet highly improbable solution - use them both.

"She was, like, 'well, why don't you just ask your manager if she can make another dress - a Tutaia dress - and just wear Folau during the week.

"Then, for your very last game at the Commonwealth Games, wear the Tutaia dress'.

"I was just, like, 'perfect idea, but that's not doable'. That cannot be done. No-one can ever play with two different last names."