Netball: Ferns confident about Oz clash despite patchy form

By Dana Johannsen

Moving Laura Langman (picture) to wing attack has be trialled to put Kayla Cullen at centre. Photo / Getty Images
Moving Laura Langman (picture) to wing attack has be trialled to put Kayla Cullen at centre. Photo / Getty Images

Taumaunu upbeat but the fired-up Diamonds will be seeking their revenge

After a patchy start to the Quad Series, the Silver Ferns are confident they can pull it together for tomorrow's clash against fierce rivals Australia.

Despite convincing wins over South Africa and England in their opening two games, the Ferns haven't been entirely convincing in their performance.

Their turnover count has topped 20 in both outings - well above the demanding standards Waimarama Taumaunu sets her side.

New Zealand's struggles for consistency mean they aren't looking the firm favourites they were heading in to the series after their historic win over Australia in last month's Constellation Cup.

The Diamonds are missing several top players from last month's series, with Natalie Medhurst, Julie Corletto and Laura Geitz all taking time off for rest and rehabilitation, but given the Ferns' most recent form, you would have to put the two sides back on level pegging ahead of tomorrow's match-up in Sydney.

Having scored a major breakthrough against Australia with the Constellation Cup win, when they recorded their first series success over the Diamonds in eights years, the Ferns are determined not to lose the ground they gained on the world champions.

"I think as soon as you hear the words Australia everyone picks up their game and has that much more focus," said New Zealand captain Casey Williams.

Australia too are fiercely motivated for the clash of the Quad Series heavyweights after the Ferns' 2-1 series win last month.

"We don't like to lose," said Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander.

"There's no better way to get fire in the belly than not accepting that and making sure we address all the issues we needed to address.

"So we're very hungry heading into (tomorrow)."

Despite the Australian line-up being quite different to that which took the court in the Constellation Cup, Taumaunu expects the Diamonds will be as competitive as always.

"Australia have such great depth that they are able to call on players with test experience as replacements," she said.

"We're very clear that this will be quite a different team we'll be playing against and some of the combinations won't be as familiar to us."

Without their two best defenders the Australian defensive end has lost a certain bite, but Taumaunu believes the Diamonds have lost little with the recall of Susan Pratley to the shooting end.

"I've always thought Pratley is a really talented goal-attack and she is playing very well at the moment so we will need to take a close look at her," said the Ferns coach.

Compared with the upheaval in the Australian team, the changes to the Ferns' line-up appear quite minor, but these have made a significant difference to their attacking dynamic.

Without midcourter Camilla Lees, who was impressive against Australia last month, the Ferns are a little light on options.

Bailey Mes has struggled to find her feet at wing attack in her first two tests against South Africa and England, and as such Taumaunu will be wary about throwing her on against Australia.

The other combination the Ferns have been trying out isn't exactly ideal either, as it means moving the world's best centre - Laura Langman - into wing attack to accommodate Kayla Cullen at centre.

Cullen, a shooter-turned-defender, has made good strides in her switch to the midcourt.

Although she is still struggling with a few of the finer details positionally, Cullen's defensive touches and release into the shooting circle suggest she may find a home there.

"I'm really pleased with how Kayla is going as a centre," said Taumaunu.

"She offers us a lot of power and pace through there, coupled with a nice release in to the circle, which I think is the area (where) people were expecting her to struggle.

"She seems to be really enjoying it as well, which is part of the battle."


Set to play

Quad Series - leg 3
Tomorrow, Allphones Arena, Sydney
4pm: Silver Ferns v Australia
6.10pm: England v South Africa

Previous results:

Leg 1 - Adelaide
Silver Ferns 63 South Africa 27
Australian 64 England 40

Leg 2 - Newcastle
Silver Ferns 61 England 43
Australia 63 South Africa 31

- NZ Herald

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