Silver Ferns vs Malawi

Wellington Batucada plays the netball test

The band in action on-courtI don’t think we’ve ever been part of the entertainment for a netball test before – it was pretty cool, I have to say (and I can confirm that Irene van Dyk is even taller in RL than on the telly!).

The test match was held at the TSB Bank Arena, and we started off by playing some choons in the foyer as people arrived for the game. The acoustics there were surprisingly good, and it allowed us a bit of a warm-up before we did our proper performances on the netball court itself.

Before the game, as the Silver Ferns and Malawi Queens were warming up, we were asked to do a couple of quick performances to keep the crowd entertained. By “quick” I mean less than 5 minutes each, which doesn’t give you very much time to get into your stride at all.

The most challenging aspect of a gig like this is that everything is ruled by television. The needs of the TV broadcast come before everything else, especially as this was a live sports broadcast, and there’s no room for error.

If you are playing on-court at the moment that the commentators decide they want to do a bit of to-camera commentary, the stage-manager gives the band director an urgent “cut” signal, and you have to stop playing that instant. Not at the end of the break you’re playing, or even at the end of the bar, but immediately. This was tricky info for the director to convey to the band, as we had our backs to the stage-manager, and couldn’t see the “cut” signal.

We spend endless hours in rehearsal, practicing our patterns, breaks and choreography. Every pattern has its own set of breaks, with specific hand signals from the director that signify each one. Each break has a specific start, middle and end. If you’re in the middle of a break, you don’t expect to have to suddenly stop it before the end, and we realised, as we came to a very muddy and rather messy halt halfway through a break, we don’t all react the same way when faced with an unexpected and urgent “STOP!!!” signal from Tim.


The organisers had very generously given us all tickets to the game, and we had absolutely fantastic seats, right down the front next to the side entrance so that we could easily get back to our drums at half-time. It was a great game to watch, and the stage manager actually encouraged us to keep on drumming during the match, to get the crowd going.

At half-time we trooped back down to our courtside waiting area and prepared to do another little performance-ette. Tim got dragged on-court without us initially, to accompany a singer with a bit of his own drumming. After a while he motioned us to join him, and once we’d finished the song we launched into a piece of our own.

It’s really cool performing on-court in such a large arena in front of so many people. They were pretty enthusiastic – we could see them clapping and jumping around all around the stadium, which was lovely. Another sudden finish – which we managed a bit better that time – practice makes perfect – and it was time for the second half.

Quite a few of us decided to stay on to watch (and drum) the whole game, which the Silver Ferns eventually won, 70-32. What fun!

Photo gallery

Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version. Photos by Alan Shuker:

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