Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua salutes Maria Folau's toughness

Maria Folau did a pretty good job of switching off from the outside noise.

Folau helped lead the Silver Ferns to their first Netball World Cup title since 2003, landing 28 goals from 35 attempts in their 52-51 upset final win over Australia in Liverpool on Sunday (Monday NZ time).

It had been a long time coming for the 32-year-old, who along with Ferns' veterans Laura Langman and the retiring Casey Kopua, lost World Cup finals to Australia in 2007, 2011, and 2015.

Watching Folau effortlessly sink her trademark long range bombs during the World Cup, you wouldn't have known the challenges she's faced in her personal life in recent months. 

Her husband of 20 months, Australian rugby player Israel Folau, had his  A$4 million contract terminated by Rugby Australia in May after an Instagram post which said homosexuals, among other groups such as drunks and atheists, were destined for hell unless they repented.

Israel then attracted further unwanted headlines, trying to fundraise A$3 million in donations to help support his legal action against Rugby Australia via a GoFundMe page, which was eventually shut down.

Those incidents and public condemnation of her husband wouldn't have been easy for Maria, but she never let it affect her build-up to the World Cup or netball at the tournament. Israel was in the stands at Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena cheering on his wife during their games. 

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua said she was in awe of Folau, who overtook Irene van Dyk's mark of 145 tests in the final, earning her 146th cap. Folau could join Kopua in international retirement, along with possibly Langman too, once the dust settles on their World Cup triumph.

"She's one in a million really," Taurua said.

"No-one plays the game like her or can shoot like her. We've all bandied around each other and it's what we do. We go out there and train and play hard. She's been a real trooper."

Initially, there were fears about how Folau might be received by the gay community and British press in Liverpool, given her husband's comments on social media and Maria's support for him. 

She proved to be one of the most popular players at the tournament, posing for selfies with fans wherever she went. 

The Folau situation could have been a distraction for the Ferns in the lead-up to the tournament, but Taurua and the squad handled it well.

"I think like anybody when stuff is happening personally or whatever, there is always going to be a lot of emotion there.

"We discussed it as a team when we came together in [the pre-World Cup] Cadbury Series and pretty much said we would support her knowing how much value she has to us as a Silver Fern, but also as a netball community."

Folau had a strong tournament in Liverpool, converting 212 of her 241 attempts (88 per cent) and also impressed with her general play. She worked brilliantly alongside Ameliaranne Ekenasio in the Ferns' first-choice shooting combination. 

Ekenasio was the find of the World Cup for the Ferns and produced the best netball of her career.

Shooting loomed as the Ferns' area of concern heading into the tournament, but was never an issue. Folau, Ekenasio, and Bailey Mes and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who also played their part in earlier games, were superb and shot at a high volume and accuracy rate.

Taurua admitted there were sometimes moments in games when even she was astonished by Folau's capabilities.

"I think she's [one of our] longest capped players now and still a bit of a twinkle toes on that baseline. I'm really happy she was able to do the job out there.

"She's a big game breaker and a big game player, which we all know and at the end she's able to do her job and she's been consistent in that ability to be able to perform, no matter what."