One of the nation’s best basketballers has called time on her career after amassing over a century of caps for her country.
Toni Farnworth (nee Edmondson) has announced her retirement from international basketball and the Sky Sport Tall Ferns. She is one of just nine payers to have played a century of games (104) in the black singlet.
Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy said he’s been a big admirer of Farnworth since taking up his role in 2018, crediting her team-first attitude and work ethic for her lengthy stay in the national programme.
“Toni is one of the best teammates you could wish to have. She’s one of those players everyone wants to play with and one of the most professional operators you could find.
“Her influence in the Tall Ferns has been significant over a long period of time and I am confident it will remain so in the coming years as she mentors our young players.”
The guard debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2007 and has been a constant in the senior side for over a decade.
She said her decision step away from the international arena was as hard as she expected it to be but admitted that it had been playing on her mind for some time.
“I’ve been thinking about if for a while, since Covid hit, I guess. I called Guy a couple of weeks ago to say I didn’t think I could do it anymore.
“I was struggling with motivation, my form wasn’t great, and I haven’t played a lot of basketball of late which was also an issue.
“It’s also been tough to get in as good a shape as I would have liked and have found it hard to fit the training in around full-time work.”
Whilst Farnworth went on to say it’s a sad occasion walking away from the court that the time she spent on it is worth the sorrow. Her most cherished highlights are the camaraderie and friendships made wearing the black uniform.
“We were individuals scattered across the world, but when we came together, we were like a big family. I always had the most fun playing basketball with the Tall Ferns.”
Among the most memorable years for the Cantabrian was 2018 after medalling at two major events, particularly with her 3X3 Asia Cup teammates Micaela Cocks, Kalani Purcell and Chevannah Paalvast.
“Winning the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup, when we were probably not expected to. It was the first time most of us had played that format.
“It came off the back of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which was a highlight as well, being a pinnacle event.”
Farnworth averaged 10 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as the Tall Ferns claimed bronze at the Games.
She has fond memories of her the call up for her senior international debut in 2007 in China against the host nation.
“I was called in as a replacement for Charmian Mellars who had suffered an ACL injury.
“It was a huge surprise when it happened. I remember getting the call when I was studying for an exam in a library at Otago University.
“It was awesome and a definitely one of the highlights of my career. That first year was quite a shock, finding the level you needed to be at to play international basketball.”
Other memorable performances came against Japan and Spain after toppling those powerhouses of women’s basketball on their own soil.
It was also fitting that Farnworth’s final appearance for the Tall Ferns, albeit she was unaware that it would be it at the time, was in Auckland in 2019.
She scored 17 points in the notable 69-65 win against Korea at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Trusts Arena.
“Playing in front of a home crowd was awesome. It was so uncommon as in my 100-odd games I didn’t play very many in New Zealand, so it was very special to do that.”
Away from the international arena it is a little-known fact that Farnworth has played 269 games in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) – a record number of appearances for a New Zealand player and an achievement that was recognised in 2020 when she was made a WNBL Life Member.
She debuted in the WNBL playing for Christchurch Sirens in the 2007-2008 season whilst still at university. Following the Sirens only season in the WNBL she played for Dandenong Rangers (2009-10), Bendigo Spirit (2010-11), Adelaide Lightning (2011-12), Perth Lynx (2013-19) and most recently for Melbourne Boomers (2019-2020).
Friends, family, teammates and coaches have all played a part in helping shape her career.
“My parents were always very supportive so that really helped me as a junior coming through the ranks and in recent years Josh, my husband, has always been supportive of me going away on international trips.
“Phil Burns was my coach at Christchurch Girls’ High School and really helped me when I started to take the game seriously. Kennedy Kereama was also around at the same time and ended up being my first coach in Australia.”
Kereama would go on to be the Tall Ferns Head Coach for a significant part of Farnworth’s international career. The fellow Cantabrian also coached her in club basketball in New Zealand and Australia, and in the WNBL.
“Toni is to be congratulated on a wonderful career. I feel honoured and privileged to have been able to share in part of her basketball journey,” said Kereama.
“Anyone who has ever played alongside her knows that she never left anything in the reserve, she always played until there was nothing left to give.
“She wore her heart on her sleeve and was always up for the challenges placed in front of her.
“I always admired her passion, intensity, work ethic and demand she placed on herself and her teammates to be better.
“I wish her nothing but continued success in life beyond basketball, and for being such a formidable and relentless competitor in the Ferns singlet.”
Tall Ferns – Appearance centurions:
- 141 Micaela Cocks
- 118 Leanne Walker
- 118 Rebecca Cotton
- 111 Lisa Wallbutton
- 110 Kirsten Daly
- 109 Donna Wilkins
- 105 Leone Patterson
- 104 Toni Farnworth
- 103 Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe