Maia Wilson delivers for Silver Ferns in post-Maria Folau era

For many,2020 has not been a year to remember, however, for New Zealand goal shooter Maia Wilson it has arguably been one of the most memorable periods of her sporting career.

The 23-year-old, who plays her domestic netball for Northern Stars in the ANZ Premiership, began this calendar year by being recalled into the Silver Ferns squad for the Vitality Nations Cup.

Wilson was first selected to represent her country at the end of her debut season in 2016, however, she was not chosen to be part of last year’s Netball World Cup, as Dame Noeline Taurua preferred Maria Folau and Bailey Mes.

After their victory in Liverpool and duelling with Australia for the Constellation Cup, Folau announced that she was retiring from international netball and that created a window of opportunity for those behind her.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Mes and Wilson were the shooters selected for January’s Vitality Nations Cup.

With Ekenasio and Selby-Rickit favouring GA, the spotlight turned to Wilson and Mes to duel for the shooter role. Mes’ ill-timed injury didn’t help her cause, however Wilson’s form would have merited her starts and game time anyway.

She finished the competition having notched 151 of their 250 goals and a couple of months later, Wilson told with Sky Sports just how important the experience was for her.

Maia Wilson’s shooting accuracy at Vitality Nations Cup

“I felt like Nations Cup brought out a lot of inner confidence in myself and my playing ability on the international stage,” she said.

“That’s something that I hadn’t had before. In the Nations Cup, I feel like I’d put my foot in the door and said that I’m a really good option in this GS position [now Maria has retired].

“I need to take that confidence forwards, knowing that I can be an amazing player when I put myself to it, and take a leadership role within Northern Stars. My job is to get the ball, turn, shoot, put it in that hoop and I know that I can do that.”

When it came down to the ANZ Premiership season, Wilson did exactly what she set out to do and flourished in Stars’ shooting end.

She maintained an 89.9 per cent accuracy and her volume of shots stayed high too as she put up 513 of their 590 goals.

It resulted in another call-up from Taurua for the Cadbury Netball Series against England. Once again, her work oozed confidence and highlighted just how hard she’s worked on her physical fitness.

As soon as Taurua took over as head coach of the Silver Ferns, she set non-negotiable fitness standards for all to follow: It’s quite simple… if you don’t meet them, you aren’t selected.

Maia Wilson’s shooting accuracy against England’s Vitality Roses

Through sheer hard graft, Wilson’s fitness and conditioning levels have sky rocketed and she’s incredibly proud of her last 10 months on court.

“To have been able to play an ANZ Premiership season and then to finally finish the year off with an international series, and get out on court playing some good minutes, I’m just very thankful,” she said after the third Test against England.

“I knew that with the retirement of Maria, there was an opening [at GS]. I didn’t think that it was going to come this early though but I’m really fortunate to see how the year has played out for me.

“To have been able to start strong [at the Vitality Nations Cup] and finish strong, I’m just so grateful to be here and see what 2021 holds.

“We still have a Silver Ferns camp next week, so we’ll head home for a few days R&R and then join each other back on Friday to Sunday. There’s a bit to do in terms of wrapping up the year and looking at where we’re going to go next.”

As the Silver Ferns look ahead to 2021, Wilson will know that emerging players like Grace Nweke and Ellie Bird will be nipping at her heels.

However, the past calendar year has shown that it’s going to take some exceptional performances for anyone to rip the Silver Ferns’ goal shooter bib away from her, now that Taurua has handed her another opportunity.

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