Netball

NZ ‘don’t discard’ pregnant players

Ekenasio has handed over the New Zealand captaincy for the series against England as she awaits the birth of her second child

New Zealand coach Noeline Taurua says the team “don’t discard” pregnant players and has questioned how sport can better assist new and expectant mothers.

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio is expecting her second child and is helping Taurua with the three-game series against England this month.

“They are not sick, they are not injured – it’s part of being a female,” Taurua told BBC World Service.

“They still want to be involved.”

In 2019, Nike changed its contracts for pregnant athletes after seven-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix asked the company to contractually guarantee there would be no performance-related financial penalties following the birth of her daughter Camryn in 2018.

Other female athletes, including former England netball captain Ama Agbeze, have called for sports’ governing bodies to put specific maternity policies in place.

“They are blessed to have children and they are still valued within our environment,” said Taurua. “We don’t discard them, which I know has happened before in our and other environments.

“I think because our tool is our body and you can’t have that same level when you’re pregnant then it’s not that we always discard them but we don’t see the value in that person and what they can bring to the environment.

“I think it’s time for sport in general to look at a different way as to how we treat people and I think that’s really important.”

Ex-netballer Taurua had her first child while playing for the Silver Ferns and called 31-year-old Ekenasio “a great trailblazer”.

“We rely hugely on Emi to be confident and want to work with us,” Taurua added. “She is the gauge of what we can and can’t do and how far or not she wants to be involved.

“If other mothers see her then they still know they can be part of an elite athlete process when you’re having a baby or two babies. She’s an example of that.

“Equality of the female form should be celebrated and netball should be able to champion that as a predominantly female sport – it should be part of our duty.”

Netball has enjoyed great success as part of the Commonwealth Games programme but has yet to feature at an Olympic Games.

Taurua, who won a silver medal with New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, said it was her “childhood dream” to go to a summer Games.

She added: “It would be amazing and it’s great that Australia are pushing it for the Brisbane Olympics [in 2032].

“Only the best go there and it feels like if we get ourselves to that space then it just takes us a notch up and raises the profile internationally. For netball, that would be amazing and it is something we could push for.

“We have the shorter game – the Fast5 – that could possibly be a game that men and women could play and could be enticing to the Olympic Committee. It would be amazing if we could get our sport on there and among it all on the best world stage.”

World champions New Zealand are level at 1-1 with England in their current three-match series, with the final game taking place in Christchurch on Friday.

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