Netball: Heartache over for Henry

By David Leggat

Joline Henry was a bit under the weather yesterday morning, so her partner turned her cellphone off.

Bad move, especially when the Silver Ferns coach's fingers are working overtime trying to get through.

"My Mum ended up ringing the landline, saying 'Ruth's rung here looking for you'," Henry said laughing.

The message from Ruth Aitken was to pack her bags for a trip to Australia this month, recalled to the Silver Ferns squad for two tests against the old enemy.

"It's just topped off a brilliant week," said Henry, goal attack in the National Bank Cup winning Magic side, who retained their title at Mystery Creek last Friday night.

The last time Henry was in the Silver Ferns was for a one-off test in Sydney last June. She went to Jamaica, mainly as a training partner later in the year, then missed selection for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

That was tough to take, 23-year-old Henry admitted.

"I was absolutely gutted about not making the Games team. I'd worked really hard and thought the next six to eight months of my life revolved round going to the Games and winning the gold medal."

Two choices presented themselves: pack it in or pick herself up and target next year's world championships in Fiji. Her friends made up her mind for her.

"They said this is what life's about, what will determine your character is how you respond to things like this.

"So I was presented with a challenge. I could have sat back and thought that's my time up, but I thought no, I've got more to give the game and I'm better than that."

Henry, who has won six caps, called yesterday's announcement a stepping stone, but clearly proof that she'd made the right decision a few months ago.

Henry and Otago Rebels midcourter Debbie White, a 28-year-old teacher, are the new faces from the Games 12, replacing the retired Anna Rowberry and Jessica Tuki, a late callup for the still-injured Jodi Te Huna.

Uncapped White went to Jamaica last year, like Henry as a training partner. Aitken described White as a "late bloomer" in netball terms, but added her progress in Jamaica had been "really phenomenal".

"We believe with further opportunity she will grow with it."

Aitken's squad has a strong defensive emphasis. New Zealand are blessed with considerable talent in this area, she believes, and wants to ensure the standards remain high.

Equally, Aitken will have her fingers crossed that none of her three shooters, Irene van Dyk, Maria Tutaia or Belinda Colling, is injured before the first test, in Brisbane on July 22. The second is in Sydney on July 25.

The New Zealand under-21 team are touring Australia at the same time as the Silver Ferns and will play their Australian counterparts in two matches.

The Silver Ferns have warmups before the first test against the Queensland Firebirds and Australian under-21 teams.

The players have a few days off before heading to Brisbane on July 17.

The squad remain together for a solitary test against South Africa at the Trusts Stadium in Waitakere on July 31.


THE SQUAD

Attack: Irene van Dyk (Magic), Maria Tutaia (Diamonds), Belinda Colling (Sting).

Midcourt: Adine Wilson (c, Sting), Temepara George (Force), Debbie White (Rebels), Laura Langman (Magic).

Defence: Leana de Bruin (Force), Casey Williams (Magic), Anna Scarlett (Diamonds), Joline Henry (Magic), Vilimaina Davu (Flames).

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