Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Netball: Three new faces in Silver Ferns squad

Cathrine Latu has been named in the Silver Ferns squad. Photo / Getty Images
Cathrine Latu has been named in the Silver Ferns squad. Photo / Getty Images

The Silver Ferns have named three new faces in the side to take on England in next month's two test series.

Nineteen-year-old defenders Kayla Cullen and Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick have been swiftly elevated in to the test line-up in the absence of injured stars Casey Williams and Katrina Grant, while Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu makes her long anticipated debut after a false-start earlier this year.

Latu was originally named in the Ferns world championship side pending an appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport over the star shooter's eligibility. The appeal failed and Latu was scratched from the team for Singapore.

But now having served out a four-year international stand-down, Latu can now officially represent her country of birth.

After an outstanding 2011 transtasman league season, Cullen's call-up today had also been tipped for some time.

But it has been a whirlwind rise for Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, who six weeks ago was not even included in the Silver Ferns wider squad. The talented young defender, along with new Pulse recruit Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, were invited to the Ferns camp last week with the carrot that if they impressed, they would be included in the contracted group of New Zealand players.

But when star defender Katrina Grant returned from a post-world championship holiday in Europe with a stress fracture in her foot, a space opened up in the test side.

There is still a possibility Grant will return for the Ferns three-test series against Australia later this month.

Coach Ruth Aitken said: "We are looking towards the next four-year cycle it is now time to give these young players an opportunity to take their game to the next level and grow a core of players that will progress through to the next World Champs.

"Both Kayla and Sulu have shown a great step up while being in the Silver Ferns environment and deserved the recognition of making the team. It's also an exciting day for Cathrine Latu after a long wait to become eligible for the Silver Ferns we are delighted to name her in the final team of 12.

"There's a huge amount of pride playing in front of a home crowd and we're really looking forward to the challenge of playing the English again with our new look team,' she said.

The series will be Aitken's last in front of a home crowd before she retires.

Laura Langman was confirmed as captain, with Irene van Dyk named as vice-captain.

The first test will be held on Monday, October 3 at Auckland's Trust Stadium Arena and the final test will be held on Thursday, October 6 at Invercargill's Stadium Southland Velodrome.

Silver Ferns team: Leana de Bruin, Kayla Cullen, Paula Griffin, Joline Henry, Laura Langman (c), Cathrine Latu, Liana Leota, Anna Scarlett, Anna Thompson, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk (vc).

- NZ Herald

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