Taurua backs Ekenasio's break

Ameliaranne Ekenasio during the recent Constellation Cup series for the Silver Ferns. Photo:...
Ameliaranne Ekenasio during the recent Constellation Cup series for the Silver Ferns. Photo: Getty Images
Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua says national captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio is courageous for asking for help and supports her break from netball.

The two-time defending champions Central Pulse will be without their captain for the start of the national netball premiership this weekend.

In a post on Instagram last month, Ekenasio said she had been struggling mentally and was seeing a therapist.

Ekenasio missed last month's pre-season tournament in Ōtaki to freshen up following the Silver Ferns' Constellation Cup victory in which she played a huge part.

Pulse chief executive Fran Scholey confirmed today that she remained on "extended medical leave" as a result of fatigue.

Dame Noeline said it had not come as a surprise.

"We've been working with Ameliaranne over about a month.

"Taking a rest is a positive for her so we fully support her and also Pulse and the action that has been taken," Dame Noeline said.

The Silver Ferns coach said the best thing they could do was give her space.

"It's knowing when you do need to pull off and they need to take that rest. I think with Ameliaranne people need to also realise that she is a mother as well so you've got extra strains on top of that, and also has a lot of other things working on top of her being a full-time athlete.

"She's not immune to those things that a lot of other people do suffer so I think it's a really positive thing within our sport that we do recognise that athletes are people first and foremost and whatever's required for them to be the best we will do that."

Dame Noeline said Ekenasio should be commended for being honest about her need for a rest.

"That's one of the things that we actually do talk about a lot as a group and also we try to teach some of these new up and coming athletes is that when you do need help that you have to put your hand up and I think that's been a common message throughout society.

"So I think it's courageous and just probably demonstrates the strength of the woman and we know that she will be back on court so having this rest now can only be good for her, Pulse and also the Silver Ferns."

The Silver Ferns coach, who used to play for New Zealand in the '90s, said things had changed vastly since she was a Fern.

"It's a full-time role and when people do see how successful the Silver Ferns have been over the last couple of years under the reign of not only Ameliaranne but also with the support of Jane [Watson] and Gina [Crampton] we have been successful under their leadership.

"You know there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes and on court it's just one area that people see but our whole idea has been trying to improve our overall performance and Ameliaranne has been part of that. So we can only commend her for taking the rest now and being courageous in her messaging and making sure that everybody is aware of where she is and it's good for others in our industry to be able to pick up on the things that we're doing now with individuals."

Dame Noeline said she was not particularly concerned that elite netballers in New Zealand might start heading into retirement earlier because of the workload required to stay at the top.

"I'm not worried as such but I think we have to be mindful and you know irrelevant of the industry, like any job you've got to be mindful that it's not only what you do within your workplace but how balance is really important and the health and well-being of the individual.

"So I think with the whole mental health messages that are in the forefront of everybody's minds in society I think now it's more normalised and a topic that everybody talks about and are aware of within the workplace."

How hard is it as a professional coach to balance making sure players have a competitive edge over their rivals, while not pushing them so much they are burning out?

"That's always a massive thing and I can't tell you that there's one recipe because we are dealing with individuals but it's definitely my philosophy around the holistic approach. We are first and foremost working with people who happen to be great athletes or good netballers so that has always been my approach and that's the way that we run within netball New Zealand and also the Silver Ferns."

Dame Noeline is confident Ekenasio will be on court for the Pulse this year.

"Definitely you will see her out there and when the topic was approached a couple of weeks ago that was made clear by Ameliaranne hence the support that is wrapped around her and also I suppose the action that's been taken to give her that rest and allow her that time to be able to come back whenever she is ready so I would like to think that's the way that we work and that's the way we continue to do that with anybody within our environment."

Meanwhile, the Silver Ferns coach is excited about the start of the ANZ Premiership.

"I think the big thing now especially this year it's probably the closest in regards to personnel and the fire power that's in some of the teams. I think all teams will be able to push our there on court I think the difference is going to come down to the coaching in regards to the programming, the strategy ...who's going to be able to perform on the day."

Dame Noeline said this year's ANZ season was huge in the context of the Silver Ferns and she would be working closely with the franchises.

"The team or the squads that get selected out of ANZ they will be in contention for the Commonwealth Games next year.

"Hence the work that we're doing with the teams - observing the players through selection but also working with team management as to how we can improve the quality of trainings and making sure the transition is good as it can be when they move between programmes. So we're definitely out there as a force - our Silver Ferns management team, working alongside just seeing how we can support ANZ teams better."

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