Silver Ferns veteran Anna Harrison turns down international comeback

Experienced netballer Anna Harrison has made herself unavailable for the Silver Ferns but she's backing another veteran to continue their comeback in the defensive circle.

Stars GK Anna Harrison swats the ball away from Aliyah Dunn of the Central Pulse. Source: Photosport

Harrison has made a successful return to the ANZ Premiership with the Auckland-based Stars side this season, however, the 38-year-old said she was not chasing higher honours.

The Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua had said she would welcome Harrison back into the fold to help fill some of the holes in the defensive circle.

But Harrison, who retired from international netball in 2017, said making the comeback to the domestic competition was a "massive decision" and playing again for New Zealand was not in her plans.

"When you come out of retirement one of the many worries is being able to perform to the level that I hold myself and I would be lying if I didn't say I was absolutely chuffed that [Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua] Noels has said that I'm playing at a level that could be considered for the Ferns so I'm really stoked about that," Harrison said.

"When someone gives you a sniff at it again the ears prick up... so there's a lot of voices going on in my head but in saying that there's a more rational one that is more in touch with the reality and it is telling me that I will not be available for the Silver Ferns."

Putting a stop to an international return was not a clear cut decision for Harrison.

"I switch between 'yeah I can do it, this would be awesome' versus 'nah I'm good'."

Harrison knew she could pull on the black dress again but she is now more focused on her future beyond netball.

The mother-of-three had juggled family life and netball throughout the Stars season, with mixed success, and said her children were one of the reasons she was not looking beyond the Premiership competition.

"We're only a third of the way through the Stars season at the moment and I felt like I was getting on top of it in about round four and then we had the week before round five and I hit the wall again. Kids waking up just ruins your energy system so I'm just surviving this season and then even the thought of going back into the intensity of high performance is exhausting."

Harrison would consider joining the Silver Ferns as training partner or any non-playing role that would give her an opportunity to work with and learn off Dame Noeline.

Though Harrison was wary of sticking around the netball environment for the right reasons.

"Mentally, in terms of where I am in life and moving forward as a person who isn't a netballer, I need to figure out whether I'm doing it because that's what I know or am I doing because it's another chance so there's massive mental considerations."

Harrison had previously said she had to evaluate whether returning to top-level netball with the Stars was worth the mental toll it would take once it was all over.

With Harrison opting not to take a New Zealand defensive bib, she believed Northern Mystics captain and defender Sulu Fitzpatrick, who made her own return to the New Zealand set-up last year, was a good fit instead.

Fitzpatrick played one Test for the Silver Ferns in 2011 as a 19-year-old, before being dropped and making a return in 2018 and then putting top performances in 2020 against the England Roses.

"Everybody is aware that there is a lack [of experience] since Casey [Kopua] left and Leana de Bruin and myself and then with Katrina [Rore] out, there is heaps of experience that is stepped to the side at the moment, so there'll be a mad scramble to find that.

"But someone always steps up and you can't forget that Sulu has been around for ages and she's very knowledgeable and having a blinder season."