The latest Silver Fern, Maddy Gordon has had to learn not to over-train, and is primed for the start of the ANZ Premiership this weekend. 

Her alarm goes off at 6am and Maddy Gordon is up and out of her bed, putting on her running shoes and dashing out the door.  

Moments later she is charging up the hills around Miramar, overlooking stunning ocean views on a cool and beautiful Wellington morning. This is her happy place.

“I love it here,” says the 21-year-old, who grew up in Whangarei, and last month made her debut for the Silver Ferns.

“I pride myself on being fit and I love pushing myself. It’s a great feeling to get out for an early morning run over the hills and take in the amazing views we have down here.” 

It’s not that long ago Gordon would get in trouble for overtraining – always going for a run on her days off.

These days she talks to Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse’s strength and conditioning coach Adam Allen and physio Nikki Lynch, and if she feels underdone that week, she gets the thumbs up.

“I love it when I get the all-clear for a run. It’s good for my soul,” she says.  “But I’ve also learnt the importance of rest and recovery. I make sure I’m not overdoing it so when it comes to time to perform, I’m ready.”

Gordon is looking to back up a breakthrough season for the Central Pulse where they defended their ANZ Premiership title. Her standout performances in the midcourt saw her earn her Silver Ferns test debut against Australia.

Maddy Gordon makes her Silver Ferns debut in their 2021 Constellation Cup victory over Australia’s Diamonds. Photo: Getty Images. 

Becoming Silver Fern No.177 was a surreal feeling for her.

“It came around much sooner than I expected. I didn’t think I would be this young,” she says.  “I remember just standing out on court and it dawned on me that I was achieving a lifetime goal. It was so exciting and I want to build on that.”

The speedy and hard-working midcourter has a big future ahead of her. Last season she was at the heart of the Pulse’s title winning season, adjusting to a new role at wing attack.

“I love the speed and agility of the position. The short, sharp play suits my style of play and I’m hoping to keep progressing there,” she says. “My goal is to learn all three [midcourt] positions well and own them.”

NetballSmart director Sharon Kearney says Gordon is one of the brightest netball prospects in New Zealand.

“Maddy moves well, hard and fast and does this repeatedly during a game – a bit like a terrier, I suppose. And to do that she needs to be strong, athletic, and fit,” says Kearney, who was physio for the Silver Ferns for 16 years.

“Maddy likes to challenge herself. She understands that to play the game she wants to and keep injury-free, she needs to be able to cope with the demands of the game and by covering all elements of fitness, strength, core and recovery, she’s able to achieve this.”

Gordon made a bold call to move south and chase her dream to be a regular in the Silver Ferns.

She grew up in Northland and moved to Auckland for the last two years of high school before coming to the capital. 

“I didn’t enjoy it in Auckland and my netball didn’t go anywhere. I wanted to make progress, so I made the call to go to Wellington purely because of the coaches – Yvette [McCausland-Durie], Wai [Taumaunu], Sandy Edge and Irene [van Dyk]. They are great coaches and good people,” she says.

“We played Wellington before and they would always beat us. I knew something good was happening down here and I wanted to be part of it. I absolutely love it here and wouldn’t change a thing.”

Maddy Gordon was a stand-out player for the Pulse in last year’s rejigged ANZ Premiership. Photo: Michael Bradley Photography.

Gordon is focused on the short-term and helping the Pulse get off to a good start as they look to defend their title for a third season running. They have a few new faces in the line-up this season, with Whitney Souness returning to the midcourt from a season with the Magic, and newcomers Parris Mason and Paris Lokotui bringing a fresh new vibe to the side. 

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio will be missing from the side for their first-up clash with the Stars in Palmerston North on Sunday, as she is suffering ongoing fatigue. 

The Pulse are the only team in the ANZ Premiership with a new coach – former Scotland coach Gail Parata returning home and replacing McCausland-Durie.

“We find that most other teams are up for it when we play them, and they put up their best performance against us. It’s always a good challenge and we’ll be ready,” Gordon says.

A big part of her success, she says, has been staying injury-free. She is a big believer in the ACC NetballSmart warm up which the Pulse do every time they play and train.

“NetballSmart is ideal because it incorporates all of the movements we do in the game. We do a lot of jumping and landing and the prop and stick movements, as well as stopping, which gets us game ready.”

She says the increased investment of ACC into the injury prevention programme NetballSmart – $3.6m over the next three years – is great for the game and ensures the wellbeing of netballers all over New Zealand.

A recent 10-year nationwide review of netball injuries revealed a 120 percent increase in the number of 15 to 19-year-old girls having anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery.

Gordon says the cost of a major injury is huge, both in terms of recovery and on the player’s livelihood. 

The impact of NetballSmart has shown a steady decline in the rate of ACL injuries and overall a decrease in rate of all injuries in netball since 2014.

“NetballSmart is so important for our young players,” she says.  “We need to bed in these good habits for players early in their development. When I was young, I just wanted to go out and play.

“But as I have got older, I’ve realised how important it is to look after your body. I know I need to be fit, strong, move and land well and recover fully. I haven’t had any major injuries and I put that down to being ‘NetballSmart’. The more you can invest in your body the better you will be in the long-term.”

Peter Thornton is an experienced journalist and communications manager. He is a senior media advisor for ACC.

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