Comm Games worry? Vaccine hesitancy in Silver Ferns squad

Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 12:11PM
(Photo: Photosport)
(Photo: Photosport)

Comm Games worry? Vaccine hesitancy in Silver Ferns squad

Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 12:11PM

By Bridget Tunnicliffe of RNZ 

Vaccine hesitancy among some national squad members could put a major spanner in the works as the Silver Ferns build up to next year's Commonwealth Games. 

While vaccines haven't been mandated by Netball New Zealand at this stage, players would have to be vaccinated to travel abroad to meet international vaccine mandates. 

That would make it almost impossible to be a fully functional Silver Fern going forward. 

So is everyone in the Silver Ferns and development squad on board with getting vaccinated? 

Silver Ferns' coach Dame Noeline Taurua told RNZ they were still working through vaccination with a few players but were heading "in the right direction." 

"Netball New Zealand policies are underway and we're still muddling through what that might mean, especially around the traffic lights and also our work with high performance sport and the venues ...we've got to make sure that we're aligned in regards to our policies," Taurua said. 

"The biggest thing for us is that we cannot get on a plane unless you're double vaccinated, going international. So that's pretty much where our starting point is and obviously the team to go to Commonwealth Games, those protocols or requirements are very stringent. 

"We're working our way back - December camp, we have that under tow at the moment. So we've got to make sure that people are fully aware of the regulations and that they have, I suppose, the freedom to express themselves as to whether they want to be vaccinated or not. But also that we are clear, I suppose about requirements in regards to travel." 

The four international sides will take to the court between 15 to 19 January. It will be the first time the Silver Ferns compete overseas since the Nations Cup in England in January 2020 when Covid-19 travel restrictions didn't exist. 

Unvaccinated players will have to make up their minds soon if they want to be eligible for that series. 

The Silver Ferns trials camp will be held in Wellington 15-17 December with the team to be announced for the Quad Series at the end of the camp. 

The standard gap between the required two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is a minimum of three weeks. 

"These next three or four weeks are pretty tight with players, but also we know that we're working through all the stages to make sure we're clean [following Covid protocols for the December camp] in that respect." 

Taurua said they became aware early on that there was some hesitancy among some members of the wider Silver Ferns squads. 

"When it did come out [the vaccination requirements] ...that was leading into the Taini Jamison, there were hesitancy or people were unsure. 

"We've worked alongside the New Zealand Players Association as well in regards to further advising players, utilizing immunologists as well, and our Dr Mel Parnell who's associated with the Silver Ferns. 

"So we've gone through different stages with different individuals and you know, that's up to them and we won't take that away as to what they want to decide. 

"But we've got to also make sure that we go through the protocols of what's going to happen, probably in future and make sure that we tick all the boxes as much as we can to keep the safety of all staff members players, but also that freedom of choice." 

Some current and former Silver Ferns have been helping to promote Covid vaccinations through their respective franchises or community initiatives. 

Well known Silver Fern Maia Wilson joined the presenting crew of the televised Super Saturday 'Vaxathon' event. 

Practice run ahead of Comm Games 

Based on what she saw from the Silver Ferns against the England Roses and the New Zealand men's team, Taurua has a very clear idea of what she wants to iron out. 

"Also leading into both of those series we never had enough time just to embed our strategies, get the combinations going, so we were quite rusty by the time we got out there. I would definitely like to build on what we did in the Taini Jamison and the Cadbury Series. 

"This is nearly our last run prior to the Commonwealth Games, knowing that we have the ANZ in the middle, so we're nearly working the same template that we did leading into the worlds [2019 World Cup]." 

She said it was crucial to get some of the younger members of the team used to playing international netball in enemy territory. 

"For us to experience what that's going to be like playing against top opposition. So the timing of everything is so good for us's going to be valuable this trip." 

The Quad series will also be an opportunity to work through some of the logistics of operating under Covid restrictions to prepare them for the Commonwealth Games in July. 

"The risk analysis around player and staff welfare. The protocols of what we can and can't do and basically apart from training and playing's a mission and we're in and out but very aligned to strict Covid protocols in the standards." 

"So testing what we need to do in the airport and training venues and also in matches as well is really critical for us as a team." 

Taurua said former Silver Ferns defenders Phoenix Karaka and Kayla Johnson will be at next months camp and "hopefully putting their hand up for selections." 

Michaela Sokolich-Beatson will have to wait longer. 

"Her introduction back into the Silver Ferns or into the environment will be through the ANZ Premiership. She's not quite ready, especially coming off two major achilles injuries. 

"She's actually progressing really well, but we're probably really taking a cautious approach and her getting her feet back on the ground with the Mystics is a good way to make sure that she's ready."