If winning the Women's Rugby World Cup in 1998 made Farah
Palmer and her teammates
New Zealand's golden girls, what did the Black Ferns' two others successes bring? We
find out as we continue our series looking back at previous
tournaments through the eyes of the champions.
RELIVE THE PREVIOUS TOURNAMENTS WITH KATHY FLORES (1991) AND GILL BURNS (1994)
Losing. No matter the sport or the level, nobody wants to lose and Farah Palmer was fortunate enough to taste defeat on the international stage only once, against England in 2001. It didn't feel like it at the time, but she now describes it as the best thing that could have happened.
Why? Simply because the 22-17 loss in Albany gave the Black Ferns something of a wake up call, a reminder that they weren't invincible and made them work even harder in their build up to Women's Rugby World Cup 2002 in Barcelona.
The Black Ferns, under Palmer's leadership, had blitzed all sides in their path to succeed England as world champions in 1998, but despite such dominance the former hooker insists they did not travel to Spain in an overly confident frame of mind.
"I don't like losing, I'm a pretty bad loser so I know in 2001 that was quite a devastating loss, but in hindsight that was the best thing that could have happened to our team in 2001 so we could properly prepare for 2002," Palmer told Total Rugby Radio.
Better than before
"No [we weren't confident of defending our crown], not at all. We lost to England in 2001 so that was a bit of a wake up call for us. I don't think we were resting on our laurels, but sometimes you just need a bit of a shake up in order to change the way things are happening.
"So yes, 2001 was a bit of a downer for us and we had to readjust our goals and we decided to focus on being better than before, that was our theme for 2002 ... everything we did we wanted to do better than before. Our fitness tests went up, we were trying to be stronger and more technically sound, we were trying to have a team culture that was more positive.
"Going to 2002 there was a lot of weight on our shoulders and I know a lot of the players just were really, really nervous because we lost to England and we weren't too sure what the other teams were going to be like."
Palmer and the rest of the Black Ferns need not have worried, they kicked off the tournament in emphatic style by scoring a century against Germany - just as they had done in 1998 - and followed that 117-0 win with a 36-3 defeat of Trans Tasman rivals Australia.
France faired no better in the semi finals and went down 30-0 to set up a rematch with England in the title decider. This time the Black Ferns came out on top, tries from Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka securing a 19-9 victory at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
Huge relief in 2002
"It was a tough game and France was also challenging, so it wasn't as much of a clean sweep as it was in 1998," recalled Palmer. "We knew that other teams would be catching up and that they would be realising that this is business now and we would have a different game on our hands, so beating England was really satisfying and for me it was more of a relief than anything in 2002."
Four years on, the two sides would again contest a World Cup final, this time in the Canadian city of Edmonton, and once again New Zealand came out on top to complete their hat-trick of titles, Amiria Marsh's late try easing any nerves by securing a 25-17 win to realise Palmer's belief that a successful title defence was possible once more.
"We always go in knowing we have done the best preparation that we possibly can, we are lucky and fortunate enough to have a culture where rugby is played and seen on TV and everyone here has an opinion about it and can give you a little tip here and there.
"We knew we went in confidently, but we also knew that England had been putting a lot of funding into Women's Rugby and they'd had a good preparation for the World Cup so we were nervous meeting them in whatever capacity that was and it ended up being the final."
Palmer knew this was to be her last appearance in the famous black jersey and savoured the occasion of lifting the coveted silverware for the third time as Black Ferns captain, a record that is unlikely to ever be matched, let alone broken.
The emotions of each success, though, were different, as were her expectations as captain.
"In 1998, I think I was quite naïve and so for me the captaincy wasn't really that different for me, it was just an extension of my role on the field," explained Palmer, a lecturer in sports management and coaching at Massey University.
"We had a great system back in 1998, so I didn't really have to do much, we had someone leading the haka and it was just about leading by example in 1998 and it was a real joy.
"In 2002, it was a lot more pressure and I had a lot more pressure as the captain. I also decided that I wanted to be the one leading the haka and I wanted to show the girls that I was willing to stand up and take on those roles and responsibilities to free them up so they could concentrate on playing.
"I think I cried with joy and relief when we won in 2002 and then 2006 I knew it would be my last year with the Black Ferns and when I was lining up for the final I knew that would be my very last game for the Black Ferns, so it was quite emotional for me.
"During that whole tournament I had just wanted to soak up everything and enjoy every moment of it, so I was a bit teary and a bit emotional throughout the 2006 tournament.
"I suppose 2002 was the most challenging. I felt that I was probably at my fittest then and that the team really came together in 2002 so that win was probably the greatest high for me, but they were all special for very different reasons, 1998 being the first and 2006 being the last.
"That game against England in 2006 was a really tough one, I have never felt so exhausted in my entire life, so I really knew we had given it our all in 2006 and came very close to losing it so that win was wonderful as well.
"I look on those memories with a lot of pride and I sometimes can't believe that I actually did it. Now I'm a mother and I've got an eight-month-old and I feel exhausted just running around after him. I'm really proud of what we achieved at the World Cup and I'm really, really happy that I had the opportunity to play for my country."