Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Ferns dominate weekend

Casey Kopua in action against Australia in the Fast5 World Series final. Photo / Richard Robinson
Casey Kopua in action against Australia in the Fast5 World Series final. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Fast5 Ferns are hoping to take the lessons from their success in the short form of the game back to the traditional seven-aside game after an otherwise forgettable international season.

Dominant all weekend, the Ferns hammered the Australian Flyers 56-27 in tonight's finale to defend their Fast5 World Series crown at Vector Arena.

The tournament might be all in the name of fun, but the Ferns were determined to produce a brand of netball they can be proud of following a disappointing test season, in which they suffered their worst run of losses to Australia in 15 years. Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu, who handed over the coaching reins to Janine Southby over the weekend, said she hoped to see her players develop the confidence to let the ball go and show their natural flair on attack during the tournament having struggled with their attacking play all season.

New Zealand captain Casey Kopua said her side can take plenty of lessons from their Fast5 performances into how they approach the traditional game.

"We know each individual has that x-factor and flair about them, so we need to have the confidence to show that and not be so hesitant, but we also need be able to control it," she said.

After playing exciting, exhibition style netball over the first two days, the Ferns seemed to tense up in the earlier match when the pressure on the finals came on. They laboured past South Africa - a team they had beat by 27 points on Saturday - in their semifinal match-up, after shooting at just 50 per cent accuracy and missing all eight supershot attempts.

But they returned to their free-wheeling best in the final, finding good length to their through-court play, with Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia finishing off brilliantly in the circle. Tutaia was the undisputed queen of the supershot, nailing 25 goals from the three-point zone over the weekend.

After a tight opening half, the Kiwi side cut loose in the third period, which they had nominated as their powerplay quarter, outscoring the Flyers 34-7 - 30 of those points coming from supershots.

In keeping with the fun and fancy-free style of Fast5, the Ferns have been creative with their entries onto court all weekend, getting bolder each day of the tournament as they built to a crescendo for the final, performing a choreographed dance routine before the opening whistle of tonight's match.

The other teams also got in on the act, with England, Jamaica and South Africa preparing routines, while the always expressive Malawi side also had plenty of fun with it.

Malawi, always a crowd favourites were once again well-supported at this tournament and were cheered on enthusiastically in their narrow 34-32 win over England in the play-off for fifth and sixth earlier in the evening. The loss saw the English team, one of the pre-tournament favourites, finish the weekend with just one win as their young side lacked any attacking flair.

After putting up a brave fight in their semifinal showdown against the Ferns, South Africa were outclassed by Jamaica in the play-off for third place, with the Sunshine Girls cruising to a 44-17 win on the back of some slick shooting from player of the tournament Thristina Harwood.

- NZ Herald

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