Janine Southby admits the Silver Ferns squad is light on cover in a couple of key positions.
The New Zealand coach today named a 16-strong squad for the 2017-18 season, headlined by the inclusion of newcomers Monica Falkner and Whitney Souness. The dynamic pair were among a handful of young players to put their hand up during last week's national trials in Auckland. In addition to the top line-up, Southby has named a development squad of 10 players, some of which she hopes to give opportunities over the next year to ensure the Ferns are continuing to build depth.
"The learning from previous cycles is the more players you can have exposed to position in international netball in the long-run is better for you and you don't get into the position we are in a couple of positions where there hasn't been a lot of change for a number of years and all of a sudden you have no depth in them," said Southby.
"That's certainly something that we've got to make sure we've got going forward is that across the squad we have coverage across all positions and that's something I can't say at this point in time."
The retirement of Casey Kopua, Leana de Bruin and Anna Harrison, who have been three key pillars in the Silver Ferns defensive end for the past decade, has left Southby light experience at that end of the court, with goal defence a particular concern. Skipper Katrina Grant is the only specialist GD in the New Zealand line-up, and faces a heavy workload this season.
The centre bib is also posing a few problems for the Ferns coaching staff. With midcourt veteran Laura Langman ruled ineligible for national selection after taking up a contract in Australia, Shannon Francois is under huge pressure to step up this season.
Magic midcourter Sam Sinclair is the only other player in the New Zealand squad to have regular court time at centre, but she is yet to cement her place in the test line-up.
"The centre position is one we're looking really hard at," said Southby. "We're looking at who can provide cover in there and we've got a couple of options and we'd like to think going into Commonwealth Games we can have up to four or five deep in our squad as cover."
Despite some positional shortages, Southby is on the whole happy with the depth coming through the ranks. She said the selectors had a tough time whittling the group of 26 trialists into a squad of 16.
"A lot of them didn't actually do anything wrong, which is a good place to be in as a coach, but it's never easy when you're actually having to tell those players that. We're going to work as hard as we can to actually get those players opportunities to put their hands up as well."