Netball: The high achiever

By Dana Johannsen

If it were possible to see the top of lofty West Coast Fever defender Susan Fuhrmann's head you would probably find that it is level.

Her coach at the Perth-based side, Sue Gaudion, confirms this.

"The best thing about Susan Fuhrmann is she is one of the most level-headed girls you will ever meet," Gaudion said.

It this trait that has seen the 21-year-old make a big impact in the early rounds of the ANZ Championships. And it is this trait that is likely to see her dominance continue.

The 1.96m defender is set for a big showdown tomorrow against another giant in the game, Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic sharpshooter Irene van Dyk. A strong performance against Van Dyk, who is regarded as the world's most prolific shooter, would go a long way in unlocking the door to the Australian test side for Fuhrmann.

As the tallest player in the game, Fuhrmann's incredible height saw her selected in the injury-ravaged Australian side for 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

She was just 19 and returning from a serious knee injury that kept her out of the World Youth Championships the previous year, so it was a big call from coach Norma Plummer, who had hoped Fuhrmann's sheer height would cause problems for Silver Ferns linchpin Van Dyk.

The ploy failed to work, with the inexperienced Furhmann unable to make an impact for the Aussie side in her four tests at the Melbourne Games.

Fuhrmann admits she was thrown in the deep end a bit, but says the experience has only heightened her desire to play in the green-and-gold again.

"I was given the opportunity when I was 19 and there were a couple of injuries in the squad and I got the chance to step up and it was great. It really showed me the professionalism and the dedication that it takes to get to that level of netball," she says.

"I absolutely want to play for Australia again and I guess every game in the championship is an opportunity to get out there and prove myself. There's so many excellent shooters in this competition."

Fuhrmann has already had the opportunity to test herself against Jamaican starlet Romelda Aiken in the opening round. Plummer was on the phone to Fuhrmann straight after the game and by all accounts pretty chuffed with the young star's performance.

The enthusiastic youngster says the Aussie selectors are "always watching" and she has been given plenty of feedback on what she needs to force her way back in to the test line-up, though she is reluctant to say what that is exactly.

"I just need to go out on the court and work hard. I need to move my feet, I need to contest the ball strongly," Fuhrmann finally concedes.

And she believes she has made plenty of gains in these areas.

"I think I've grown a lot since I was picked when I was 19. It's been a couple of years since then and I've had quite a bit of court work at a good level of netball.

"And just that experience as well, being able to play with some experienced people, I've picked up a few bits and pieces on reading the play a bit better."

As Fuhrmann has improved, so too have the fortunes of the Perth-based side. Once the perennial easy-beats in their previous domestic competition, the Fever made a promising start to the transtasman League, pushing the Queensland Firebirds and Melbourne Vixens hard before upsetting the Northern Mystics in Auckland last weekend.

Fuhrmann was particularly instrumental in notching up their first win, causing all sorts of problems for the Mystics attack end with her incredible reach nullifying Cathrine Latu's holding game.

Fuhrmann has every confidence the Fever can repeat the dose against the Magic tomorrow.

"I think last year people classified us as step overs, but this year it's not the case. We've been putting everything into training and we've been growing every week."

Let's just hope she means "growing" in a metaphorical sense.

- NZ Herald

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