Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Development window closing for Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby

Kelly Jury (middle) and Sam Sinclair (right) have both made their test debuts during the Quad Series. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.
Kelly Jury (middle) and Sam Sinclair (right) have both made their test debuts during the Quad Series. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.

Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby continues to grow her playing stocks as the "building phase" of the campaign fast comes to a close.

Waikato defender Kelly Jury this morning became the seventh player to debut for New Zealand in six months when she took the court in the final quarter of the Ferns' 61-37 romp over England. The 20-year-old joined her Magic teammate Sam Sinclair, who was in the starting line-up for last weekend's clash against Australia, in notching up their first tests in the Quad Series.

It follows a busy 2016 season for integrating newcomers into the programme, after a record five players debuted for the Ferns last year - Jane Watson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Gina Crampton, Storm Purvis and Maia Wilson.

Developing depth in the ranks - particularly in areas of the court where the Ferns have been hit hard by positional shortages in the past - and exposing young players to the red-hot international environment was one of Southby's key objectives in the early stages of her rein.

But, with the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast just over a year away, the national coach is conscious the development window is fast closing. The Ferns need to start delivering consistently.

Yesterday's 24-goal drubbing of England in Liverpool was a good start, but there remains lingering disappointment that New Zealand couldn't put an understrength Australia to the flame in last weekend's Quad Series opener.

"We've still got a long way to go, it's still definitely a work in progress," said Southby.

"We'll wait until we get through this series before we have a good hard look at [where we're at], the good thing we are getting some young players out there and exposed to what it is about. That was part of the plan for this part of the campaign.

"We know we haven't come up trumps against Australia and that is the biggest challenge for us."

The Silver Ferns will close out the Quad Series against South Africa in London on Monday, before taking on Wales in an historic two-test series. By the end of the tour Ferns' management should be armed with enough knowledge to begin developing clear plans of their starting seven and alternate lines.

For the likes of Sinclair and Jury, the remaining matches will provide them with an opportunity to put pressure on Purvis, Phoenix Karaka and Kayla Cullen, who were rested from the tour to give them a chance to recover from niggly injuries.

Jury said she plans to make the most of it.

The 1.92m defender said her eight minutes on court yesterday were "a bit of a blur", but she was pleased the Ferns continued to build on their lead after Jury took the court.

Despite marking a massive milestone today, Jury said the her biggest learnings have come off the court.

"It's definitely a new experience for me, I had never gone outside New Zealand and Australia before this [tour] so to get to be a part of this is amazing. There has been a lot of new information to take on board and I have had to adapt very quickly," she said.

- NZ Herald

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