Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Two new faces in Silver Ferns squad

Katarina Cooper. Photo / Richard Robinson
Katarina Cooper. Photo / Richard Robinson

Unheralded midcourter Katarina Cooper and Australian-born Courtney Tairi are the two new faces in the Silver Ferns squad.

The national selectors today named their wider squad for the upcoming international season through to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Tairi, who grew up in Sydney, is eligible to represent the Ferns through her New Zealand parentage. The former NSW Swifts midcourter joined the Steel in 2012 as she chased her dream of playing for the Silver Ferns. But her international ambitions had to be put on hold last year after she suffered a serious knee injury during the transtasman league.

Tairi's inclusion in the squad has come at the expense of Mystics midcourter Grace Rasmussen, who was perhaps unlucky to miss out following a strong ANZ Championship season. Rasmussen has been included in the New Zealand accelerant squad, alongside Shannon Francois, Ellen Halpenny and newcomers Jane Watson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Zoe Walker and Malia Paseka.

Cooper is also returning from a knee reconstruction. The 27-year-old mother-of-two made her ANZ Championship debut for the Pulse last season, but her remarkable comeback story ended with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in the second to last round of the season.

Cooper was not offered a transtasman league contract this year as she battled back from injury, but was thrown a lifeline by the national selectors when she was invited to Silver Ferns trials this week.

The other change to the squad is the return of veteran midcourter Joline Henry, who missed last year's international season through pregnancy. Despite battling a few niggling injuries, Henry impressed during the trials and is on track to make her international return against Australia next month.

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu said she's pleased with the depth of talent in the squad and that those selected were chosen on form after impressing all week.

"It's always going to be a difficult decision to exclude some extremely talented players, but we are satisfied we have made the right choices," she said.

"We now need to look ahead and focus on the next challenge which is the New World Netball Series for the Constellation Cup against Australia which starts on September 15. We've got a lot of work to do before then," Taumaunu said.

The test line-up to face Australia in next month's Constellation Cup series will be named on August 26 following a week-long squad camp.

Silver Ferns Squad:
Jodi Brown, Anna Thompson, Katarina Cooper, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Katrina Grant, Courtney Tairi, Irene van Dyk, Joline Henry, Leana de Bruin, Casey Kopua, Laura Langman, Maria Tutaia, Cathrine Latu, Camilla Lees, Kayla Cullen.

NZ Accelerant Squad:
Grace Rasmussen, Shannon Francois, Ellen Halpenny, Jane Watson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Zoe Walker, Malia Paseka.

- NZ Herald

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