The New Zealand national netball team, commonly known as the Silver Ferns, represents New Zealand in international netball. The team take their nickname from the Silver Tree Fern (Cyathea dealbata), which is an iconic emblem for many New Zealand sports teams. The Silver Ferns were formed in 1938 as a representative New Zealand team to tour Australia. To date, they have been one of the most dominant national netball teams in the world, along with the Australian Diamonds, and have a winning record against most other netball nations. At the end of the 2011 international netball season, the Silver Ferns were ranked second in the IFNA World Rankings.
The Silver Ferns compete annually for the Constellation Cup a home-and-away test series with Australia, and also play test matches with other major netball countries, including England and Jamaica, on a regular basis. They have competed at every World Netball Championship since its inauguration in 1963, and in every Commonwealth Games since netball's inclusion in 1998. The Silver Ferns have won the World Netball Championships four times (in 1967, 1979, 1987 and 2003). They also won the netball title at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and 2010.
By the time of the 1960 tour of Australia, netball-playing nations from around the world had met to draft the first international rules of netball, which featured seven-a-side teams. The first Netball World Championships (then called the "World Tournament") took place in 1963 in Eastbourne, England. The New Zealand team travelled to the venue by boat, arriving after a voyage of six weeks. The team were captained by Pam Edwards, with Muir as vice-captain. Australia defeated New Zealand 37–36 in a closely contested final to win the tournament. The Silver Ferns would not play again for another four years, until the next World Championships in Perth. Captained by Judy Blair, New Zealand defeated Australia 43–40 to win the tournament.
In 1970, New Zealand played a visiting Fiji team, before touring England and the Caribbean. Also that same year, the Silver Ferns uniform changed from a black tunic to a black skirt and white shirt. New Zealand competed in the third World Championships in Jamaica the following year, again coming second behind Australia. The Silver Ferns toured England in 1974. One year later New Zealand hosted its first World Championships, where the host nation finished third behind Australia and England. Four years later at the 1979 Netball World Championships, the Silver Ferns finished 1st equal, tied with Australia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The 1980s saw the emergence of regular international competition for the Silver Ferns, as well as increasing television coverage of netball matches in New Zealand. The Silver Ferns competed in two World Championships, in 1983 and 1987. The 1983 Championships were held in Singapore, where New Zealand were defeated in the finals by Australia; four years later, the Silver Ferns defeated Australia to win the 1987 Championships in Glasgow. Starting from 1985, the Silver Ferns have played international tests on an annual basis. In 1989, New Zealand achieved a historic clean-sweep test series win over Australia. It was also the year in which netball was included in the World Games, where New Zealand progressed undefeated to emerge as champions. The Silver Ferns subsequently won the New Zealand Sportsteam of the Year (team award) that year. In the 1990s, the Silver Ferns contested three World Championships but did not manage to win any of them. The 1999 Championship final between Australia and New Zealand was the highest-ever rating programme for televisor TV2. Another trans-Tasman Silver Ferns match in 2008 attracted a higher television audience than for a recent Bledisloe Cup–deciding rugby union match.
The Silver Ferns have had several successes in the 2000s. The Silver Ferns once again emerged as world champions after winning the 2003 World Championships in Jamaica. 2005 was a similarly successful year, in which they won all eight international tests, with comfortable series victories over England and Australia, capped off with a tri-series win over Jamaica and Barbados. That year they also posted their highest ever score against Australia, winning 61–36 in Auckland. In 2006, New Zealand won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, but were defeated by Australia at the final of 2007 World Championships in Auckland the following year. In 2009, the first World Netball Series was contested in England, with the Silver Ferns defeating Jamaica in the grand final to win the inaugural tournament. Success was repeated the following year at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, with New Zealand defeating Australia in a dramatic 66–64 double-overtime gold medal playoff win. Described by The New Zealand Herald as "arguably the most incredible netball test ever", the game won the team the Lonsdale Cup of the New Zealand Olympic Committee in 2010 for the most outstanding contribution to an Olympic or Commonwealth sport. The Silver Ferns are currently ranked second in the IFNA netball world rankings, which until 2008 were determined solely by the results of the World Championships.