Netball: Spotlight will fall on Mes

By Michael Brown

Bailey Mes passes during a Silver Ferns netball training session at Unitec on September 5, 2012. Photo / Getty Images.
Bailey Mes passes during a Silver Ferns netball training session at Unitec on September 5, 2012. Photo / Getty Images.

Rarely in the history of New Zealand sport has a player jumped to the international arena is such exceptional circumstances as netballer Bailey Mes.

There are many who have risen quickly - Krisnan Inu debuted for the Kiwis after one NRL game, Isaia Toeava had played only two NPC games when he was selected for the All Blacks and an 18-year-old Daniel Vettori was the youngest person to play test cricket for the Black Caps when selected against England after only one first-class game - but all were at least known to hold good potential when jettisoned into the national side.

Mes, on the other hand, had played only 15 minutes of the ANZ Championship when she was plucked from obscurity by new Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.

Not only that, the 23-year-old hadn't come through any talent identification programmes and had not been a national age-grade representative. She was even originally selected by the Mystics as a shooter - she's still listed as a goal shooter or goal attack on the Mystics website - and her conversion to the midcourt this year came about largely because the Auckland franchise needed more bodies there in training.

Mes was invited to last month's Silver Ferns trials as Taumaunu searched for answers in the midcourt and impressed enough to be picked in the side to take on Australia in the first of three tests in the Constellation Series. She's not likely to feature much in the first game, if at all, but Mes is readying herself.

There will be plenty of interest when she finally makes the court because few outside the Mystics and now the Silver Ferns know what she can do and how she plays. Mes knows she will come under the spotlight when that happens.

"I try not to think about it because I know I have worked hard to get here and wouldn't have been picked unless they wanted me," she said. "I have had a quarter of game time so I know there will be a lot of people hanging out to see if I can actually deliver. I just have to work as hard as I can and prepare as best I can. There's not a lot more I can do."

Mes' height and fitness are two things that appealed massively to Taumaunu but it was still a huge punt by a coach picking her first squad since taking over from Ruth Aitken.

There are still doubts around whether Mes has the potential to become a good international but Taumaunu is still confident.

"I just liked what I saw," Taumaunu said. "When we brought back [experienced shooter] Jodi [Brown], I really felt we needed to balance it with something that was a bit more inexperienced and something that was a bit more of a punt.

"The more time time she has been on court, the more impressive she has been. Her athleticism in particular [is what appeals]. Because she's so tall, she's able to see into the circle and she's got quite a nice connection with Irene [van Dyk], largely around the fact she's able to see so much more space than smaller mid-courters."

It could, if Mes kicks on, see the Silver Ferns play a slightly different style. They are without the quick ball movement and feet of Temepara George (retired) and Liana Leota (maternity leave) and there have been few international midcourters taller than 1.8 metres.

Her selection has certainly meant a significant change for Mes. She has had to resign from her part-time job as netball co-ordinator at Auckland Girls Grammar to focus on schooling the rest of us how good she really is.

- APNZ

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