Netball: Ferns' selectors eye under-21 shooters

By Dana Johannsen

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu. Photo / NZPA
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu. Photo / NZPA

The Silver Ferns selectors will be looking closely at some of the under-21 shooters in camp next week as they rebuild depth in their shooting end.

The national squad and invited players will take part in trials in Auckland with Waimarama Taumaunu to name a squad of up to 18 players at the conclusion of the camp.

None of the under-21 players preparing for the world youth championships in Glasgow this month were named among the triallists, but Taumaunu said the selectors would still be having a close look at the group, who will play a series of trial matches against the senior players.

Along with Mystics star Kayla Cullen, who has already played 12 tests for the Silver Ferns, Taumaunu said they would be taking a "serious" look at the young shooters coming through.

"It is the shooting end we'll be looking a little more closely at the under-21s, so the likes of Sophia Fenwick, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Malia Paseka are the ones in line to earn a spot [in the Silver Ferns squad]."

The shooting circle has long been a concern for the New Zealand team, but their stocks seemed to be improving last year after former Samoan international Cathrine Latu became eligible to represent New Zealand, coupled with Jodi Brown's international return and the emergence of young star Julianna Naoupu.

But ongoing knee concerns prevented Naoupu from being involved with the Ferns programme in 2012 and the 23-year-old is still battling to return to full fitness after playing a limited role for the Tactix in the transtasman league season.

Meanwhile, question marks have emerged over the form of Latu and Brown.

Latu spent most of the second half of the ANZ Championship season on the Mystics' bench after struggling to adjust to life without attacking linchpin Temepara George.

Brown also drew her fair share of criticism this year for her low shooting volume, averaging just over 10 goals a game for the Steel as their 1.98m Jamaican import Jhaniele Fowler dominated the shooting circle.

In a further hit to the Ferns' shooting stocks, Bailey Mes, who impressed for the Mystics after pushing Latu out of the starting line-up, will not be available for international selection after suffering a serious knee injury in the Auckland side's final outing.

Taumaunu admitted the form of some of her senior shooters had not been as convincing as she would have hoped and was disappointed there was not more depth there to seriously challenge the incumbents for their test spots.

"It's a real shame Bailey won't be there. There's a lack of depth in [the shooting circle] that I hoped not to see," she said.

The Silver Ferns coach expects those players who have had mixed seasons will respond with strong performances in next week's trials.

She also hopes the addition of Australian shooting legend Vicki Wilson to the Ferns' coaching team will help the players develop areas of their game they may be struggling with.

"The appointment of Vicki as assistant coach was with a view to putting a little bit more dedicated time into the shooting circle," she said.

Given the shortage in the shooting department, there were further scares for Taumaunu this week after Maria Tutaia was sent off for MRI scans.

Tutaia has been battling a stubborn hip complaint over the season, but Taumaunu said the scans revealed nothing sinister.

"We manage most of [the players] most of the time really, there are always minor niggles coming in, we just wanted to be sure last week that we were dealing with a minor one and we were," she said.

Meanwhile, Australian shooter Catherine Cox has withdrawn from the Australian Diamonds selection camp ahead of the 2013 international season citing fatigue.

The 108-test veteran made the decision on Thursday evening to opt out of camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

"I need some extra time to recharge," said Cox. "So I made the difficult decision to withdraw from selection camp to ensure that I'm at my best for next year's Commonwealth Games and 2015 World Netball Championships."

The withdrawal of Cox, who served as vice-captain last season, leaves a big question mark over who the next Australian captain will be, after Natalie von Bertouch's retirement last month.

NSW Swifts midcourter Kim Green and inspirational Firebirds defender Laura Geitz are tipped as favourites to take over the mantle.

- NZ Herald

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