Netball: Seymour keen to embrace captaincy role

By Suzanne McFadden

Julie Seymour's first stint as captain of the Silver Ferns six years ago was prematurely cut short by pregnancy.

Older, 37, and wiser (now a mother of three), Seymour believes she can make more of her second chance.

While Seymour's latest New Zealand captaincy spell could be seen as a caretaker's role, with future potential leaders Casey Williams and Laura Langman recruited as her vice-captains, coach Ruth Aitken has assured her she's more indispensable than that.

"I told her, `Remember you're the best person for the job now, not just the best teacher'," Aitken said yesterday, naming her 12-strong side to play Australia and England over the next two months.

Aitken has added tenacious young defender Katrina Grant and recalled skyscraper shooter Daneka Wipiiti after a six-year absence.

"We face a lot of challenges after losing the world championships, but Julie is the right person to lead us through them _ she's intelligent and she has a lot to say. She absorbs pressure without missing a beat," Aitken said.

"I remember when she was last captain she had some incredibly inspirational stories that made the hair stand up on the back of your neck."

The exceptionally fit midcourter, who has 88 caps and captained the silver-medallist Ferns at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, was the natural choice based on experience to replace new mum Adine Wilson, and she will have the on-court support of veteran Irene van Dyk.

"In the Silver Ferns we don't look to one person on court as the messiah. It's important to develop leadership in every sector of the court," Aitken said.

Seymour never expected another shot at the captaincy, and until a month ago, wasn't sure she would still be playing international netball.

As captain and assistant coach of the Canterbury Tactix in the inaugural ANZ championships, she waited to see if she could continue to balance playing with raising three children.

"Personally I'm now in a better position to be both a mother and a top netballer. I think I'll do it a little better this time," she said. "I even expect to learn off Casey and Laura."

Seymour was captain when Wipiiti last wore the Silver Fern _ a 19-year-old talent who fell by the wayside when she pulled out of national training camps and lost confidence in her shooting. But in recent seasons moving to the deep south has turned her game _ and her life _ around.

"Daneka is really well settled in Invercargill and the ANZ championships were good for her having to play week after week for the Steel without Donna [Loffhagen] beside her.

"She's had to step up, and now she wants to be here, she wants to work. She realises training makes a difference," Aitken said.

At 1.94m, she's the tallest in the side, and if she teams up with van Dyk in the shooting circle (as they did with success in the trials), the Ferns could employ a more aerial attack.

Steel defender Katrina Grant, a former Auckland Girls Grammar student studying commerce and human relations in Otago, didn't expect a national call-up so soon in her career.

"The Ferns have such a strong defence base. I was thinking one of them would have to retire so I could make the 2010 Commonwealth Games," said Grant, 21.

"But now I've played against people like Sharelle McMahon and Natalie Medhurst in the ANZ champs, I have that much more confidence to play against Australia."

The Ferns will train in Melbourne before embarking on a seven-test marathon _ the first against Australia on September 17.

- NZ Herald

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