New Zealand netball star Maria Folau (centre) will play Super Netball next season.Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander expects Super Netball clubs to clamour for Maria Folau’s signature after the New Zealand shooting star confirmed she was available to play in next year’s league.
The long-time Northern Mystics shooter has lived in Sydney since marrying high-profile Wallaby Israel Folau last November.
She routinely flew home to play in the New Zealand league this year, but has now been given dispensation to play in the Australian competition while still being eligible to represent the Silver Ferns at next year’s World Cup.
Alexander said the 134-Test veteran and one of the sport’s most prolific long-range shooters would offer a club plenty of punch on and off the court.
“No club could say no to that sort of experience,” the national coach said.
“And obviously yes, from a commercial view definitely (she’s worth prioritising) but from a pathway point of view if she denied an Australian a contract it’s not in the best interests of the national program.
“For clubs to get that balance right is the key.”
The NSW Swifts are well stocked in attack but the retirement of Giants shooter Susan Pettitt offers Folau a genuine opening at a Sydney club, where her husband completed the recent Super Rugby season for the Waratahs.
But a move to Queensland is also viable, with Israel off contract and linked to the Reds and Mariah’s immediate family recently moving from Auckland to Brisbane.
Alexander expects both the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning – the latter of which will chase consecutive titles in Sunday’s grand final – to enter the race for her signature.
Adding weight to the Lightning’s case is the presence of Kiwi coach Noeline Taurua, who is expected to be confirmed as the new Silver Ferns mentor in coming weeks.
Folau told the newsroom.co.nz website she would have retired internationally if not granted permission by Netball New Zealand to swap domestic leagues.
She played about half of the Mystics’ matches in the New Zealand premiership this year and found the commute too mentally and physically draining.
“And it’s also been hard on my husband and my family,” Folau said.
“I feel like I’ve given my all to netball, and I’ve done everything I can wearing the black dress for 13 years but I would love to give the World Cup one more crack.”
Folau is the second player, behind Laura Langman, to be granted a trans-Tasman exemption by NNZ, which wants to keep its leading players in New Zealand.