Former Silver Ferns captain Anna Stanley was determined to avoid her old netball stomping ground during next month's World Masters Games, but couldn't say no when a call-up came to play in memory of her late friend Tania Dalton.

The pair forged a strong friendship through their playing careers with the New Zealand team. Later they combined off the court as well, as part of the SKY TV netball commentary team.

But Dalton, 45, tragically died in February, after she suffered an internal carotid artery aneurysm, collapsing during a touch rugby game.

Her death left a huge hole in the team she had entered for the Masters Games netball tournament, being held on April 22-28, so Stanley has answered the call to step in.


"I didn't want to play netball initially," said Stanley, who had committed to a 4x400m relay team on the athletics track instead. "That was too easy, and I wanted to challenge myself and go back to my roots really.

"I always felt there was no way I would have made it into the Silver Ferns so young, if it wasn't for my track background."

As a teenager, Stanley held Canterbury age-group records over 400 metres, clocking a respectable personal best of 56.2s, before turning her attention to an international netball career.

"But with Tania passing away, the [netball] team needed an extra person. We decided to change our name to 'T'bags' and really dedicate our week to Tarns - it was an easy decision to make.

"She was the greatest chick you could ever have in your team. She always made you feel special, was the heart and soul of any party, and had the best legs in the netball world."

Anna Stanley (nee Rowberry) in action at 2003 Netball World Championship in Jamaica. Photo/Photpsort
Anna Stanley (nee Rowberry) in action at 2003 Netball World Championship in Jamaica. Photo/Photpsort

The T'bags, taking on Dalton's nickname as their own, are made up of former international and representative players, including former Silver Ferns shooter Leonie Leaver.

They will contest the Competitive 40-plus grade, wearing playing outfits that bear a "Forever in our hearts, Tania Dalton" logo and, wherever possible, promoting the Tania Dalton Foundation.

The charitable foundation, set up in memory of Dalton, supports sports training and development for underprivileged children.


"The [team] are girls I used to play with in the Ferns and Auckland Diamonds," said Stanley. "They're a great bunch of girls and it looks like being a really fun week.

"They've all played at top level, they are all now mums, they all like to keep fit ... they enjoy a glass or two of sav, and I'm sure that will be getting us through the week, along with a helluva lot of Voltaren."

Stanley, married to former All Black Jeremy Stanley, is also a World Masters Games ambassador and was drawn to compete as an example for her three children - daughter Jaya, and sons Nico and Zac.

"For me, it's going to be about reconnecting with a lot of my old track-mates and a big part of it, as well, will be showing my kids that, just because you're a mum, it doesn't mean life ends. You can still be competitive."

Injuries allowing, there will be keen family rivalry on the track, with older sister Rachael Rowberry also assembling an all-star relay combo that includes former Silver Fern Julie Seymour and former national 400m champion Jane Arnott.