Netball: Tough fitness standards claim three notable victims amid Dame Noeline Taurua's Silver Ferns selections

Dame Noeline Taurua is notorious for the demanding fitness standards that underpin her Silver Ferns selections and her squad to contest next month's Nations Cup in England is no exception.

Even with veterans Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Gina Crampton and Jane Watson unavailable for the campaign, the national netball coach has dumped three notable performers on the basis of their inability to meet fitness criteria.

Shooter Maia Wilson, 26, has been a regular fixture in the team since her 2016 debut and played all 240 minutes of a four-game series, when New Zealand took the Constellation Cup off Australia in 2021.

Netball: Tough fitness standards claim three notable victims amid Dame Noeline Taurua's Silver Ferns selections

Although supplanted by Grace Nweke as the Ferns' first-choice shooter, she regained the role, when Nweke was sidelined by injury during this year's World Cup, as the defending champions tumbled to fourth.

She has probably lost further ground to rookie Amelia Walmsley, who broke into the squad against England during Nweke's recovery.

Midcourt Peta Toeava, 29, has struggled to hold down a regular spot since her international debut in 2018, but that absence has become even more inexplicable over the past 12 months, since she starred in two home games - both victories - against Australia in the 2022 Constellation Cup.

When she was left home for the two return fixtures across the Tasman, the Ferns subsequently lost both games - and the series - as they missed Toeava's feeding combination with Nweke.

Goal shoot Tiana Metuarau, 22, is probably best known as the daughter of former Silver Ferns captain and coach Waimarama Taumaunu - born into NZ netball royalty - but debuted in the national team in 2021.

She has also been in and out of the squad, with fitness often cited as an issue, but was a member of the world champion U21 side at the age of 16 and remains a player of the future.  She also co-captained Central Pulse to this year's ANZ Premiership crown.

Dame Noeline makes no bones about their omission, although she curiously describes their fate in terms of availability. 

"We have a range of testing we do, but the main test we do is the 'yo-yo', which is an intermittent, interval, shuttle-type testing to ensure the players can play the dynamic game that we play," she explained to Newshub.

"Unfortunately, those players weren't able to meet that at the date required, hence their unavailability for selections.

"It is something they should be able to achieve, because they have achieved it before. You've got to be committed to meet those standards."

Dame Noeline Taurua at Silver Ferns trials.
Dame Noeline Taurua at Silver Ferns trials. Photo credit: Photosport

Ironically, Wilson has undergone a rigorous boxing programme designed to improve her mobility around the shooting circle, as she eyes a fulltime move to the goal attack position.

Dame Noeline hasn't ruled the trio out of future consideration and has pledged support to get them back on track.

"Without mincing words... it was just a moment in time for them," she said. "How I view it is their level of readiness, but also minimising risk around injury as well.

"I always view things as a positive as to what they can do now and what we can do now as Silver Ferns management to make sure that next year they come back better, and they use the time to improve in the areas they need to.

"We take it on the chin, we move on and provide those supports."