Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Knee delays Naoupu's debut

Julianna Naoupu. Photo / Getty Images
Julianna Naoupu. Photo / Getty Images

Julianna Naoupu's long-awaited international debut has been put on hold once more, with the promising young shooter to have surgery on her troublesome knee.

Touted for many years as a top prospect, Naoupu's progress through the ranks has been hampered in recent seasons by a lack of application. But after strong growth both on and off the court over the past year, Naoupu was on track for her first test call-up.

The 22-year-old was ruled out of last week's Constellation Cup series against Australia and put on a strict rest and rehabilitation programme after a bruising transtasman league season with the Magic.

It was hoped she would be fit for the Quad Series, but Silver Ferns medical staff this week decided surgery would be necessary, putting her out for the rest of the international season.

With the young shooter unavailable, it is unlikely there will be any major changes to the Ferns team for next month's tests against Australia, England and South Africa.

The fringe members of the Kiwi side will find out today if they have done enough to retain their place in the team for the upcoming series, when coach Waimarama Taumaunu confirms her test line-up.

Last week's series win over Australia provided plenty of food for thought for Taumaunu as she looks to lay the foundations for the four years ahead. She tried out several new combinations against Australia, with newcomer Bailey Mes and injured captain Casey Williams the only players not to take the court.

New Zealand won the series 2-1 to end an eight-year drought against Australia, but a topsy-turvy performance in their 59-53 loss in the third test took the gloss off the result.

Nevertheless, with Camilla Lees, Kayla Cullen, Jodi Brown and Cathrine Latu all gaining solid exposure against Australia, Taumaunu was pleased with where her side sit.

"I think we've made progress. I would have liked ... a more consistent performance in the final test, but I saw enough in the first and fourth quarters to be heartened."

Mes will likely get her opportunity against South Africa or England in the Quad Series, having apparently made strong progress in training matches.

But with Taumaunu aiming to expose players from her wider squad to the test arena, it is likely she will name separate teams for the Australian and New Zealand legs of the series.

"There won't be major changes, but I'm hopeful on the periphery we'll be able to make one or two changes to have the entire squad through the international programme by the middle of February," she said.

Williams is insisting she will be back in action next month after being sidelined with a knee injury. Maria Tutaia, the star of the first two tests, is also expected to be back for the Quad Series after being ruled out of the finale with a bruised knee.
The numbers

180 minutes played by rookie midcourter Camilla Lees over the series
13 the number of players Australia got on court across the three tests
231 the combined number of caps of Natalie von Bertouch, Catherine Cox and Mo'onia Gerrard who were all benched in Christchurch
77 the average number of penalties the Diamonds copped each game (the Ferns average was 56).

- NZ Herald

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