By Liam Napier in Liverpool

Dedicate Liverpool to the fossils.

Experience at any World Cup is invaluable and with over 400 collective test caps, it doesn't get more influential than Casey Kopua, Laura Langman and Maria Folau, the trio who in self-deprecating terms deemed their senior status at this tournament fossil-like.

The Silver Ferns had countless contributors to the heroic World Cup triumph, their first for 16 years.

Advertisement

From the New Zealand A team to the men's side to backroom staff, management, former coaches and those who didn't make the final 12-strong squad, everyone played their part in Noeline Taurua's 11-month revolution.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Jane Watson and former skipper Katrina Rore, playing a starring role at wing defence, were all supreme.

But if there are three figures, other than Taurua, that deserve this success more than anyone, it's Kopua, Langman and Folau.

This was fourth time a charm after the anguish of three previous World Cup final losses – all to Australia.

How fitting it is their final World Cup where the script is flipped.

What a way to go out for Kopua, possibly Folau too.

"Really special for the fossils because it's highly likely we won't be here, we'll be on the other side of the fence," Langman said in reference to her last World Cup, indicating she may play on.

"It was a special moment catching up with old basil Case and Maria in particular. I've been by their sides, Casey probably since we were racing each other at primary school, until now.

Advertisement

"I wanted to finish off for them in the style they deserve. I'm so grateful it fell our way. Now I know how it feels on the other side of the fence. This side feels way better."

Before assuming the daunting task of rebuilding the Ferns from the bottom up – guiding them to the crown from fourth in the world – Taurua went after her two long-time linchpins.

She brought Langman back from international exile in Australia; Kopua from retirement. Alongside Folau, they formed the pillars to first take down England on home court, then Australia in the final.

"They are big game players. They've been there, done that," Taurua said. "They're really professional athletes on and off the court. Once they commit you know you've got them 100 percent. It was trying to build a spine with those three because I know them.

"Today and yesterday they showed their value, worth and overall leadership but also the drive and hunger to either keep ball or put the ball through the hoop."

How fitting, too, Kopua's intercept in the final quarter against Australia proved decisive in the Ferns holding on for the one-goal victory.

"It actually feels like a fairytale," Kopua beamed, the treasured, elusive goal medal draped around her neck. "I'll keep it on for now. I think I might sleep in it. I'll definitely find somewhere at home so it can remind me every day.

"To finally get the win, it's pure satisfaction. It's going to look good with all the other medals. We've never had this."

One evening earlier, after the Ferns stunned England, Kopua could barely walk she was that banged up and exhausted.

The 34-year-old defender, one of the greatest in history, somehow inspired all over again to show the tenacity we've come to take for granted throughout her career.

"I did whatever I could recovery wise but it's probably just pure stubbornness. When your team-mates are relying on you, you have to do your job otherwise you're going to be dragged off the court.

"Another motivator for me was it was the last 60 minutes of my career. Even when I was hunched over and people were yelling at me to do stuff I really appreciated it to get right through to the end.

"I think I've cried enough out there. Maria and I still can't believe it. We keep touching each other or wanting to hold hands because you can't believe it has actually happened.

"I can't wait to give my mum and dad a hug because they've supported me right from the start to the end and I appreciate that so much."

With daughter Mila and husband Terry to consider, Kopua deliberated over whether to return to the Ferns after receiving several phone calls from Taurua.

"When someone like Noels comes back, takes over, and knows what she wants, she's going to get it. I'm so proud to be part of it with Laura and 'Ria. We've been there for 16 years – a long time.

"When things like this happen you're definitely in the right place. You get those gut feelings. I know I made the right decision to be here."

While Folau has been off limits to media for weeks, due to the controversy surrounding her support for husband Israel's religious views, Taurua made her importance clear.

"We're so happy she's part of our team," Taurua said. "One of our things is looking after each other on and off the court. She has such a long history with our sport and still has twinkle toes on that baseline. I'm really happy she was able to do the job.

"Like anyone when personal stuff is happening there's always going to be a lot of emotion there. We said we were going to support her, knowing how much value she has to us as a Silver Fern. She's one in a million. No one plays the game like her or can shoot like her."

Whatever the future holds, the Ferns fossils can now rest easy.