Diplomacy on the Netball Court

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The New Zealand Parliamentary Netball Team, The Australia Federal Parliamentary Netball Team and the New South Wales Parliamentary Netball Team pose for a photo with former Silver Fern Irene van Dyk at the 2017 Diggeress Cup Tournament.

Remembering back to the origins of Anzac Day New Zealanders and Australians have long enjoyed a special camaraderie or ‘mateship’ and a friendly rivalry in the true spirit of the Anzac soldiers from long ago. Whether it be heated debate over which country invented Pavlova or who has the best sports team, we’ve always enjoyed our iconic rivalry and our friendship. Our special relationship is no more so when it comes to sport, in particular our national games – rugby and netball.

In the tradition of the Anzacs, netball’s Diggeress Cup was launched in 2015 as part of WW1 commemorations to symbolise the special relationship between Australia and New Zealand. The Cup is played for by parliamentary teams from both countries at least once every parliamentary term. Our New Zealand Parliament team, better known as the ‘Parly Ferns’ is made up of MPs, parliament staff and our sponsors. Our first Diggeress Cup tournament was played during the Netball World Cup in Sydney in October 2015, with Australian teams representing the Federal Parliament and NSW Parliament. The second tournament was played in Sydney in October 2016 and our third in Wellington in March 2017. So far, we have won the Diggeress Cup three times and at our most recent matches, at home, the pressure was definitely on for us to retain the Cup. While we love to play netball and we love to win, we all realise that competing in this tournament is so much more than playing the game and winning.

Playing these inter-parliamentary matches allows us to engage and develop relationships between parliamentary staff and MPs and with our Australian parliamentarians. The values of sport, such as teamwork and fair play help us to build relationships between staff and MPs and our Australian colleagues, increasing cooperation and understanding of each other. Through netball, we are able to connect on a personal level, start conversations and build connections that will inform and develop our parliament to parliament relationships.

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Louisa Wall MP and the New Zealand Parliamentary Netball Team with the Diggeress Cup.;

Our support for local charities helps us to engage with our local communities and develop important positive relationships between them and the New Zealand Parliament. Our Parly Ferns frequently play matches around New Zealand to raise awareness and support for local charities. Our most recent Diggeress Cup match raised funds and awareness of the Tania Dalton Foundation, set up to support sports training and development for under privileged children. Our involvement in these matches not only improves our relationship with communities, it also helps our communities to develop and grow, even if in a small way.

So, just as our Anzac soldiers formed those first bonds of mateship in WW1, we continue to develop relationships between our two countries, through the medium of sport. We will always enjoy our friendly rivalry, but perhaps because ofevents such as our Diggeress Cup matches we will have more understanding of our different cultures, know how to cooperate better and build connections with parliamentarians and community, that will have lasting effects for both of our countries.

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Louisa Wall is MP for Manurewa and Labour spokesperson for Courts and Youth Affairs. She is a former Silver Fern and Black Fern and co-captains the New Zealand Parliamentary Netball Team.

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