Silver Ferns netball great Margaret Forsyth dies, aged 59

Margaret Forsyth, who passed away on Tuesday aged 59, was a teenaged netball sensation who became a legendary Silver Fern.

“She had a grit and a fire about her that I haven't seen since for a player of her calibre,” said former New Zealand team-mate and friend Rhonda Wilcox.

Forsyth won two world titles and became known throughout New Zealand and the netball world for her shooting circle combination with Margharet Matenga.

‘The Two Margs’ – with Forsyth at goal attack and Matenga at goal shoot – became the best shooting circle combination in world netball, helping New Zealand to two World Cup titles.

The talented all-round Waikato athlete made her Silver Ferns debut in 1979, while a 17-year-old seventh former at Hillcrest High School. She was part of the NZ side which finished in a three-way tie for top honours with hosts Trinidad and Tobago and Australia.

Eight years later, she became one of just three Silver Ferns to win two world titles as part of the all-conquering 1987 team which outclassed their rivals to secure the coveted Netball World Cup title in Scotland. Forsyth also played in the 1983 World Cup when NZ lost what was effectively a final against Australia 47-42.

“I started playing against her at 17 – we were both 17, at the North Island secondary school nationals,” said Wilcox, who later played at goal shoot with Forsyth in NZ teams of the early/mid 1980s.

“She was dynamite, she just outshone everybody. She excelled while the rest of us were still learning our trade. She just understood the game, knew the positions to be in.”

A degenerative knee condition forced her retirement aged 27 after 64 appearances for the national side and she was later an assistant and head coach with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic side, an assistant coach of the Fast5 Ferns in 2017 and the NZ A team in 2016.

“She had a knack as a coach of not only taking players to a higher level but also of teaching them positional skills – a lot of modern-day stuff doesn't happen like that – how to hold a position, where to place yourself, where to place the ball,” Wilcox said.

“She read the game and understood it – with the mental toughness that you don't see often.

 “She wasn't a morning person – I had to sneak out of the room if I was rooming with her. But she was very elegant in everything she did – she was an amazing lady.”

Forsyth was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (NZOM) for her services to netball and the community in the 2020 New Year’s Honours.

“I love the game, I love thinking about the game, about the future of the game,” Forsyth said after being honoured.

“I just think it’s an amazing vehicle for girls and women, that they can learn so much about being a leader, a contributor.”

Forsyth, who served in the police force and also worked as a primary school and physical education teacher, was in her third term as a Hamilton City councillor when she passed away shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

She first served from 2010 to 2016 and was elected again in 2019. In this present term she chaired the council’s environment committee.