Taumaunu hailed with top honour for stellar contribution
March 2, 2021
Popping out of the room briefly, Wai Taumaunu, for once, got her timing all wrong, and consequently missed the moment of hearing she had been awarded Netball New Zealand’s (NNZ) highest honour.
Announced during the governing body’s first AGM to be held via Zoom at the weekend, the wider netball community were informed that Taumaunu and her predecessor as Silver Ferns coach, Ruth Aitken, were the latest to be honoured as NNZ Life Members.
Gathered with her Netball Central colleagues in Wellington for the AGM, Taumaunu, the Zone’s Director of High Performance, re-entered the room oblivious to what all the fuss was about as the accolades flowed thick and fast.
A pillar of the sport over many years, Taumaunu has had a distinguished career across all facets, as a player, coach and administrator after starting her working life as a secondary school teacher.
``It was most unexpected but very welcome and I’d just like to thank all the people who have supported me during my career and for this nomination,’’ she said.
Taumaunu could be described as a trailblazer in women’s sport but she, instead, puts it down to the era she grew up in while also being able to seize the moment when it presented.
``I regard myself as an opportunist and when things have arisen that I have been interested in and wanted to do, I’ve done them,’’ she succinctly summed up.
When offshore sporting appointments for women were a rarity, Taumaunu was appointed National Performance Director of England Netball in 1998, holding the position until she returned to New Zealand in 2003. Her influence on netball in England is widely acknowledged to this day.
It is a similar story in New Zealand where her touch has stretched far and wide.
``The Lottery funding (which supported netball) and the invention of a Performance Director in England, those weren’t things anyone could have predicted but I thought it would be fun and our kids were at the right age, so yes, it was very opportunistic but I also grew up in an era where there was a strong expectation that you would give back,’’ she said.
``We were all coaching from a very young age. If you were in the top team at school, you coached, if you were in the top team at club, you coached the lower teams......it was just the norm in those days. And it’s only relatively recently that those sorts of things have changed.’’
Winning the World Cup (Glasgow, 1987) as a player and being assistant coach of the Silver Ferns double extra time win at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi (2010) are particular standouts for Taumaunu.
The Sydney World Cup (2015, when she was Silver Ferns head coach) and Glasgow Commonwealth Games (2014, head coach) also rank right up there for other reasons.
``Sydney was really a mark of how far those players travelled,’’ she said. ``We got second which was fine but what is often forgotten is how no one expected that team to even make the final. I was really impressed with what they achieved.
``At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with the number of injuries, illness and other things that we had going on, to beat Jamaica and make the final, in the state I knew we were in, again I was incredibly proud.’’
Selected in the Silver Ferns as an 18-year-old, Taumaunu’s course was set, going on to forge an outstanding 10-year international career. Captaining the Silver Ferns in her last three, years, Taumaunu played 77 tests and was acclaimed as one of the great defenders of her generation.
Taumaunu was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1992 and an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) in 2016 for her services to netball. She was inducted into the NZ Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Māori Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
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