Family planning a matter of timing for Ferns

Netball New Zealand will not dictate when Silver Ferns players can start or add to families but does encourage them to make "family planning" decisions which aren't detrimental to the national side.

Defender Anna Harrison announced this week she is expecting her first child, while wing defence Joline Henry gave birth to a boy last month. They followed the lead of midcourter Liana Leota - who had her second child last year - in making it three Silver Ferns to have become pregnant since the 2011 world championships.

The next big event for the team is the defence of the Commonwealth Games title next year, followed by the 2015 world championships.

All three players have indicated to Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu that they wish to be involved in those tournaments, with Henry even taking a limited part in last month's team camp only 14 days after giving birth.

NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle said the timing of Harrison's news was "fantastic from a Silver Ferns perspective" and every effort would be made to ensure the 74-test veteran was able to return to the international arena.

"My view is that netball is a female sport, led by females, and if anyone's going to have a culture that's engaged and involved in giving females flexible work environments and supporting them in that process, then it's got to be netball. That's just how it should be," Castle said.

"Are there appropriate rules around that? Of course there are. We've got a professional business to run, so is bringing your toddler to Silver Ferns training appropriate? Of course it's not.

"But are we going to make sure you've got the care you need during that time? Of course we are.

"It's not anywhere near the same issue for male codes. In male codes they might miss a game or a week, but they don't miss six or seven months. So we do have a different culture than what the male codes have."

This, conceded both Castle and Taumaunu, also meant talking to players about preferable times to be pregnant.

"We would ask that a player, having made themselves available for the world championships and Comm Games, would look to hold off their family planning to a different phase," Castle said.

"Certainly, before the world championships in 2011 there was a commitment made from that core group that they wouldn't get pregnant during that time."

Which leaves players with what has been described as "a window".

"Ideally, women would make choices that would allow them to play the pinnacle events but you can't always do that," Taumaunu said.

"We're really clear with them about the four-year programme. They're well aware that the Commonwealth Games is less than 18 months away now and there are choices and considerations that they have to make."

It should be pointed out that both women were delighted at Harrison's news for reasons other than the fact that she would probably be available for future major championships. Castle said that it was sometimes difficult for elite female athletes to conceive and that NNZ was always pleased when a Silver Fern was able to - regardless of the playing schedule.

The Dominion Post