Netball: Selectors catapult Mes into bigtime

By Dana Johannsen

Bailey Mes has been elevated from the Northern Mystics' bench to the Silver Ferns side named to face Australia next month. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Bailey Mes has been elevated from the Northern Mystics' bench to the Silver Ferns side named to face Australia next month. Photo / Steven McNicholl

From an unused bench player at the Northern Mystics to Silver Fern - as far as bolters go, Bailey Mes would have to be the ultimate example.

Mes had just one quarter of ANZ Championship netball under her belt this season when she set foot in the national camp last week as an invited triallist. By the end of the week she had been promoted to a Silver Ferns squad member.

But there were more surprises to come on Sunday night when the phone call came from Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu, bearing the news that the Aucklander had been selected in the test side to face Australia next month.

The reality of her swift elevation to the national team was still sinking in yesterday when she arrived at the Netball New Zealand offices for an intense day of briefings.

There were head-shots to be taken, a uniform and team kit to be doled out and meet and greets with NNZ staff.

All of these mundane realities of being a Silver Fern were met with wide-eyed amazement by Mes, who appeared genuinely overwhelmed by all the attention.

Then it was time to front the media.

While she chatted away to reporters, patiently answering the same questions over and over, she was conscious that her phone was constantly buzzing away in her pocket.

Unable to tell anyone except her parents of her shock selection on Sunday night, her big news slowly began to seep out over the morning. By the time Mes had finished her media commitments she was greeted with 19 text messages and 35 Facebook and Twitter notifications.

"Oh my god, this is so insane - I don't even know how to start replying to them all," she said.

Silver Ferns captain Casey Williams remembers the alien experience of being cast in the media spotlight for the first time, and the endless messages of congratulations that came afterwards. Of course, that was before social media had really taken hold.

"It makes me feel so old," she laughed.

While Williams was tipped for greatness at an early age, Mes' elevation into the Ferns has come entirely out of left field.

The product of Onehunga High School has never been involved in the national age-group programmes, and has had limited court time in her three seasons with the Mystics.

In fact this year she had her least productive season yet, taking the court for just one quarter - and a pretty disastrous one at that - against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

"She's certainly the biggest [bolter] I can recall in my time," said NNZ chief executive Raelene Castle, who popped out from behind her desk to absorb the buzz of team naming day.

Taumaunu acknowledges Mes' selection may seem a bold call, but she said that after the 23-year-old's performances during last week's trials, the decision was straightforward.

Mes turned heads during fitness testing on the first day of camp, keeping up with energetic midcourter Laura Langman, who has long set the benchmark in terms of aerobic conditioning in the Ferns team. But her court play proved more of a revelation as the converted shooter comfortably slotted into the wing attack role, looking at home alongside the experienced Ferns campaigners.

"She really played her way in," said Taumaunu. "She was one of the top few in the aerobic testing, in her standing jump and in her speed. So if you have all that in 186cm running around the midcourt, that's a major factor."

In making the Silver Ferns line-up for next month's Constellation Cup series, Mes exceeded the expectations of even her biggest fans - her parents.

"I had to tell my Dad a few times before he believed me," she laughed.

But while Mes was leaping around her house after hearing the news, others were experiencing the crueller side of team selections.

Mes ousted her Mystics teammate Grace Rasmussen and Tactix utility Anna Thompson, both of whom have test experience, from the top line-up.

Taumaunu expects both will get their chance later on in the season, whether that be in the October quad series involving Australia, England and South Africa, or the January tour to England.

The other surprise in yesterday's naming was the inclusion of veteran shooter Jodi Brown after a five-year absence from international netball. Brown got the nod ahead of the Magic's Julianna Naoupu, who is struggling with ongoing knee problems.

* Australian international Julie Corletto is set to join her basketball playing husband in Auckland next season, according to her former club.

The Vixens announced on their website yesterday that Corletto, whose husband Daryl plays for the New Zealand Breakers, was leaving Melbourne and had signed with the Northern Mystics.

The Mystics are said to be furious the Vixens have announced another team's signing - particularly when pen has not been put to paper yet.

As the collective agreement has not been signed off by the New Zealand Netball Players' Association, there is no contract for Corletto to sign. But Mystics chief executive Julie Paterson confirmed to the Herald late last night that the two parties have agreed to terms.

SILVER FERNS

Casey Williams (c), Jodi Brown, Kayla Cullen, Leana de Bruin, Katrina Grant, Anna Harrison, Laura Langman, Cathrine Latu, Camilla Lees, Bailey Mes, Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk.

Wider squad members: Julianna Naoupu, Grace Rasmussen, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Anna Thompson.

- NZ Herald

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