Netball: Ferns tag Aussie to plug gap in midcourt

By Dana Johannsen

Courtney Tairi trained with the Silver Ferns during the week. Photo / Supplied
Courtney Tairi trained with the Silver Ferns during the week. Photo / Supplied

The Silver Ferns are lining up an Australian to solve their midcourt shortage.

Former NSW Swifts midcourter Courtney Tairi, who has signed to play with the Southern Steel in this year's transtasman league, joined the Silver Ferns in camp this week.

Tairi was invited to take part in the camp by national coach Waimarama Taumaunu, who is keen to secure the services of the young Australian to boost her depleted midcourt stocks.

Sydney-born Tairi is of Maori descent and eligible to represent New Zealand and Australia.

Since signing with the Steel in August last year, Tairi has batted away questions over whether she has aspirations to play for the Ferns.

She remained non-committal when the Herald spoke to her yesterday but her presence in Auckland this week can be taken as a positive sign.

Tairi said she was excited to be given an opportunity to train with the Ferns and experience the high performance environment but she has not yet decided whether she will make herself available for selection.

"To be honest I still haven't really thought about it, my focus at the moment is just having a good preseason and trying to cement my place in the starting seven for the Steel," she said.

Netball New Zealand high performance director Tracey Fear said Tairi was invited into camp, which will also run through next week, to introduce her to the Ferns programme for the next four years.

Players do not have to confirm their availability for selection until mid-way through the ANZ Championship, but by that stage there are no further camps planned until the Ferns assemble again in September when their focus will be on preparing for a test series.

Fear said they will sit down with the 23-year-old at the end of next week to see where her thinking is at.

Taumaunu has made no secret that the midcourt is her most pressing concern after it took a double hit with the retirement of Temepara George and Liana Leota's shift overseas. The loss of the pair has left a gaping hole, with no obvious candidate to partner Langman in the midcourt. The Central Pulse's Camilla Lees is considered the next cab off the rank, but with the 22-year-old in her sixth year of medical studies, her availability is not always guaranteed.

Meanwhile Australia's midcourt is brimming with talent. Even without captain Natalie von Bertouch, the Diamonds still outshone New Zealand in Constellation Cup series late last year. This season experienced midcourter Lauren Nourse will also return from injury to challenge incumbents Kimberlee Green, Chelsea Pitman and Madison Brown for national selection.

While the green and gold machine continues to churn out top-class midcourters, the possibility of Tairi defecting will likely still prove unpalatable to netball fans across the Tasman. Tairi has played all her netball in Australia and was a member of the Australian Under-21 side that won gold at the World Youth Cup in 2009.

- NZ Herald

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