Netball: Ferns brace for Diamonds' new edge

By Dana Johannsen

As far as lifting in the shooting circle goes, Ferns captain Casey Williams doesn't think the move is that feasible. Photo / Getty
As far as lifting in the shooting circle goes, Ferns captain Casey Williams doesn't think the move is that feasible. Photo / Getty

Talk that the Australians are set to unleash a shock attacking innovation has added a hint of intrigue to tomorrow's opening Constellation Cup test in Melbourne.

Australian coach Lisa Alexander indicated during the week her side had been working on moves to counter the experienced Silver Ferns' defensive line-up, even suggesting an offensive lift could be involved.

To what extent Alexander's comments are simply pre-series gamesmanship remains to be seen, but the warning is clear: the Silver Ferns should expect the unexpected.

Diamonds skipper Natalie von Bertouch did little to scotch speculation her side intended employing a lift in their attack end in yesterday's captain's news conference.

"It may or may not happen, that's all I'll say," said von Bertouch.

"What we need to consider is the risk it puts on players, and unless you're doing it properly and are well prepared, it's not going to work."

The place of lifting in netball has been a hot topic ever since the Mystics unveiled their controversial assisted goal-tend - performed spectacularly by lanky defender Anna Harrison - on the unsuspecting Melbourne Vixens during this year's ANZ Championship.

The move prompted some coaches to scour the rulebook to see if there were any other potential loopholes to be exploited.

But as far as lifting in the shooting circle goes, Ferns captain Casey Williams doesn't think the move is that feasible.

Asked whether she can see any benefits to the ploy, Williams replied: "Not really. I spoke to our shooters about it and a few of them have tried it (in training) during the ANZ, so we'll be interested to see what happens."

Mystics shooters Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia have been seen experimenting with lifts in training during the season, with varying degrees of success.

When Tutaia was hoisted in the act of shooting it proved ineffective as players are not allowed to interfere with the goal or the net, so there can be no "dunking" as such. Therefore you'll have a better success rate shooting from a stable base on the floor.

However, when lifted into the air to catch a long bomb into the circle, it opened up the opportunity for some nifty interplay in-goal.

Whatever tricks the Australians have up their sleeves, Williams said her side wouldn't be wasting too much time trying to second guess what they might be.

"We just have to play it smart and make sure we're quick to react when it happens."

Of more concern to Williams is scouting the various shooting options the Diamonds have at their disposal. With Alexander opting to rotate a squad of 15 over the series, there are five shooters that could be used across the three tests.

Crafty goal attack Natalie Medhurst and 1.92m shooter Caitlin Bassett were the preferred starting combination at the end of last year, but with Susan Pratley forcing her way back into the Diamonds line-up this season on the back of a strong ANZ Championship campaign, Australia have the ability to mix up their style with the two smaller shooters.

Williams said she and her fellow defenders had had to do their homework on the potential combinations.

"We've done our analysis on all of them, obviously once the (final team of 12 is named today) it will narrow it down for us, but to be prepared we made sure we had a good look at all of them," she said.

Tomorrow's series opener will be the first test appearance for the two national captains since last year's world championships, both taking the opportunity after the pinnacle event to have surgery to repair niggling injuries.

It is von Bertouch who will be the most comfortable with how her side have progressed in her absence.

After their success in Singapore, the Diamonds went on to claim the Constellation Cup for the second straight year since the prize has been on offer.

Constellation Cup
Game 1: Silver Ferns v Australia
Tomorrow, 4pm, Hisense Arena, Melbourne
Live on Sky Sport 1

- NZ Herald

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