Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua has named her team to contest the Northern Quad Series as the athletes meet new standards of expectation.
Netball New Zealand selectors have announced a squad of 12 to head to England next month where the Silver Ferns will play the hosts along with Australia and South Africa from January 13-20.
The latest selection proved one of Taurua’s toughest yet during her short reign as head coach, as she put 25 hopefuls through a rigorous training camp in Auckland this week.
“They have been put under the pump physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said.
“We needed to set the standard with what’s required within the team – I’ve been inspired by the intent and focus out on court.”
Taurua said with the step up in intensity, her job of selecting had become more difficult particularly through the mid-court and defensive ends which hold plenty of promise.
“I’m liking what I’m seeing. I liked the quality that was out there and that people certainly weren’t taking their position for granted. Our strength is the collective. Everybody has contributed to the final 12 and because of that the door will remain open for everybody going into the ANZ Premiership. This is just one stage of the journey of where we need to get to. I’m grateful we have all committed we will do it together,” she said.
Young mid-courter Kimiora Poi ends a remarkable year on a high with her selection following a stand-out ANZ Premiership and backed up by her performances with the FAST5 Ferns and during the Silver Ferns camp.
She joins experienced campaigners Laura Langman, Sam Sinclair and Gina Crampton, along with Whitney Souness who has earned a recall.
“This mid-court is an area we are continuing to develop and we felt that we needed to strengthen those combinations,” Taurua said.
“We felt that both Kimiora and Whitney bring something different to the centre and wing attack positions – they bring a new set of skills to the role, are extremely fit and also show a confidence for such young athletes.”
The defensive end also saw National Selectors and coaching staff have to make some tough decisions with a number of changes for the upcoming Netball Quad series with Erena Mikaere joining the Silver Ferns squad for the first time, Karin Burger recalled to side, while Casey Kopua (101 Tests) makes a comeback for the Silver Ferns with her last outing in the black dress in October 2015.
“Erena obviously brings height to our defensive circle and her experience of playing against the Australian style for a number of years,” Taurua said.
“And the experience and knowledge that Casey brings to the squad is invaluable.”
The shooting end had a more settled look including Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio, while the inclusion of Maia Wilson is a chance for the young shooter to impress in what is a big year for the Silver Ferns.
Taurua felt she had enough cover with just three shooters, through the experience of both Folau and Ekenasio while Wilson is well known for her accuracy.
She said it was now crucial for players to step up and take responsibility for their roles on court with a Netball World Cup looming.
“There’s nowhere to hide,” Taurua said.
“If people don’t do their own job then it impacts on somebody else, and that shows when we play on court.
“I think there’s been improvement overall and a better understanding of what is expected and our ability to put that out on court.”
But she also confirmed that the door remained opened for those still pushing to be part of the Silver Ferns Netball World Cup campaign.
“We can’t afford to close shop – we’ve got to keep everyone in the mix,” she said.
“I’m not putting a line through anybody. We need everybody onboard to raise the standard and to create that internal competition.”
Fellow defenders Kelly Jury and Temalisi Fakahokotau were not considered as they continue their rehabilitation from injury. The team will vote on captain and vice-captain in January ahead of the Netball Quad Series.
Silver Ferns team:
Shooters –Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Maria Folau, Maia Wilson
Mid-court – Gina Crampton, Laura Langman, Kimiora Poi, Sam Sinclair, Whitney Souness
Defenders – Karin Burger, Casey Kopua, Erena Mikaere, Jane Watson
Silver Ferns schedule:
versus England Roses, January 13, 2019 at Echo Arena in Liverpool
versus Australian Diamonds, January 19, 2019 at Copper Box Arena in London
versus South Africa Proteas, January 20 at Copper Box Arena in London