Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Fast5 Ferns to the rescue

Taumaunu selects the strongest national netball team in bid to give new concept life.

The selected Fast5 Ferns are Anna Harrison, Kayla Cullen, Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia. Photo / Michael Bradley
The selected Fast5 Ferns are Anna Harrison, Kayla Cullen, Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia. Photo / Michael Bradley

Netball New Zealand's attempts to rescue the failing Fastnet concept have been given a boost with Waimarama Taumaunu selecting the strongest team available for the November tournament.

Version 2.0 of the shortened form of the game, which has been rebranded "Fast5", will be unveiled in Auckland in November, with New Zealand hosting the tournament for the first time.

Introduced in 2009, Fastnet, as it was originally known, struggled to gain a foothold with fans. But the International Netball Federation (INF) is hoping some radical rule changes and bringing the tournament to New Zealand, where the sport has a greater following, will help create a strong platform to grow the game globally.

Netball New Zealand is determined to make a go of the new format and is throwing all its resources at creating an exciting entertainment package for fans.

Proudly modelling the eye-catching new FastFerns strip at yesterday's launch, defender Anna Harrison said she was looking forward to being given some more creative licence on court.

"It'll be good if we do try exciting new stuff because we need to separate it from the traditional game," she said.

In previous seasons the Ferns have used the tournament as an opportunity to blood young players in a less intimidating environment than the test arena.

But this time Taumaunu has selected a highly experienced team, including Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk, Laura Langman and captain Casey Williams, ensuring fans will get to see all the stars in action.

The only notable omission is Mystics shooter Cathrine Latu, with Taumaunu unable to accommodate two stationary shooters in the 10-strong squad.

Taumaunu said it was a very competitive selection as all the Silver Ferns made themselves available for the tournament. "This year, largely because it was the first time in New Zealand, we went with an experienced group, and the Silver Ferns all wanted to play," she said.

"Essentially we've gone for people who can shoot, and can shoot long, and who I think are well-conditioned."

One of the main criticisms of the original Fastnet rules was that they didn't differ enough from traditional netball.

New Zealand won the tournament in 2009 and 2010 without really embracing the new set of rules, playing a safe, possession-type game.

It is hoped new Fast5 rules will force teams to rethink their traditional game plan and bring different skills to the fore. As the name suggests, teams have been cut down to five, doing away with the wing attack and wing defence positions. New scoring zones have been introduced, with one point awarded for the inner circle, two points for long-range shots inside the circle, and three points for shots taken from outside the circle.

Taumaunu said she doesn't feel any expectation to try to take an innovative approach.

"I quite enjoy [the new concept], and looking at the rules and thinking about ways we might deal with them is very interesting."

Fast5 World Series

November 9-11
Vector Arena, Auckland
Competing nations: New Zealand, Australia, England, Jamaica, Malawi, South Africa

Fast5 Ferns team

Shooters: Maria Tutaia, Irene van Dyk, Anna Thompson
Midcourt: Laura Langman, Kayla Cullen, Bailey Mes
Defence: Leana de Bruin, Anna Harrison, Casey Williams, Katrina Grant

Fast5 rules

* Fast5 matches consist of four six-minute quarters.
* Each team consists of 10 players with a maximum of five on court at any time.
* Teams may use unlimited substitutions via the substitution box adjacent their team bench at intervals or during play.
* There are three scoring areas in the Fast5 form of the game with areas for one, two and three goal points.
* Both sides get a powerplay quarter with their goal points for that quarter being doubled. Teams cannot take their powerplay quarters at the same time.

- NZ Herald

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