Netball: History awaits Ferns

By Dana Johannsen

Netballers keen to wrap up the series tonight, after eight years of waiting.

Shooter Irene Van Dyk does not want to see another opportunity slip through the Silver Ferns' fingers. Photo / Getty Images
Shooter Irene Van Dyk does not want to see another opportunity slip through the Silver Ferns' fingers. Photo / Getty Images

History doesn't often favour the Silver Ferns when it comes to transtasman tests.

But dig further enough back into the record books and you can find a wee gem that might give the New Zealand side cause for hope ahead of tonight's second Constellation Cup test in Auckland.

The Ferns, who are yet to lift the trophy, are looking to wrap up the series in front of a record crowd at Vector Arena.

The last time New Zealand won a series against Australia was in 2004, when they recorded a clean-sweep over Norma Plummer's side in her first tour of New Zealand as Diamonds coach. Tonight will be the first time Lisa Alexander has faced the Ferns at home.

But sporting symmetry alone won't be the winning of the game for the Ferns.

The eight-year drought hasn't come about because of a lack of talent, more so a lack of consistency.

The Kiwi side have always managed to pinch a game here and there against Australia, but they've struggled to maintain any periods of dominance.

New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu said the satisfaction of producing two consistently strong performances against Australia is a strong motivating force for her side tonight.

"The motivation is about our performance on court and putting consistent back-to-back performances out on court, which the Ferns are not renowned for in the last few years," said Taumaunu.

The Ferns have been here before and failed to nail it. They won the first of the end of year Constellation Cup tests in Perth last season, but Australia came back to win the next two and the trophy.

Ferns sharpshooter Irene van Dyk says her side don't want to let another opportunity slip through their fingers.

"We have to back up," said van Dyk.

"I think it's really important for us to pull out a ripper [tonight] and show that we can do it."

But the will is just as strong in the Australian camp.

Veteran shooter Catherine Cox is poised to play her 100th test if she takes the court and her teammates will be desperate to ensure the milestone is a memorable one for their vice-captain after their uncharacteristically lacklustre showing in Sunday's 54-52 loss.

Alexander said she was disappointed with her side's lack of intensity in the opening test, particularly in the defensive end where the Diamonds struggled to generate any turnover ball. She has promised a more ferocious effort tonight.

"You'll see some good, hard one-on-one defence," she said.

Mo'onia Gerrard has a more colourful term for it.

"I call it dog-arse defence," the straight-talking defender said.

"You'll see a lot of that, especially in the defensive end, we need to be a lot more aggressive on to the ball."

Alexander has some interesting selection calls to make, particularly in the shooting end, where she must weigh up whether to start Cox in her 100th game, or go with 1.92m sharpshooter Caitlin Bassett who made a strong impact when she was introduced in the final quarter.

- NZ Herald

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