Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Netball: Bassett set to hound Ferns

Caitlin Bassett has proved to be an accurate goal shooter, which will put pressure on the Silver Ferns midfield. Picture / Getty Images
Caitlin Bassett has proved to be an accurate goal shooter, which will put pressure on the Silver Ferns midfield. Picture / Getty Images

She could develop into the next Irene van Dyk - but unfortunately Caitlin Bassett won't be wearing a black dress.

Bassett is set to become a recurring nightmare for the Silver Ferns - not just over the next two weeks but across the next few years.

She has already proved a pivotal figure in this Constellation Cup series. She shot at 100 per cent in the 55-51 loss in Invercargill, then hit 32/36 in Auckland as the Diamonds won 48-45 (no other shooter got more than 25).

But beyond the bare statistics, Bassett offers a presence that can be almost impossible to counter.

At 1.92m, she is the tallest player on the court in this series and allows Australia the option of a genuine holding shooter, for long the domain of van Dyk in international netball.

"She offers real height at the back of the circle," says Ferns captain Casey Kopua of Bassett. "It hasn't always been the typical Australian style and is obviously a good weapon for them.

She has developed a lot over the last few years and is now a lot stronger and much more accurate."

"The penny is starting to drop for Caitlin," says Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander. "She is now comfortable with her height and with who she is and comfortable as our No1 shooter. It's been a big step for her."

Now 25, Bassett was something of a late bloomer on the international stage. She made Australian age group teams but was rarely the No1 shooter, with former Pulse star Caitlin Thwaites ahead of her at under-21 level.

Bassett made her Diamonds debut in 2008 but didn't really come to prominence until the World Championships three years later.

Before that tournament she wasn't seen as much of a threat; Bassett was a typical beanpole, blessed with height but lacking strength and skills. She had been a model of inconsistency for the Fever in preceding years but everything turned in Singapore.

She shot an incredible 151 from 155 attempts across the week and her second-half injection in the final, with the Ferns leading by six goals, was the single biggest factor in accounting for the turnaround in that match.

Her presence unsettled the Ferns, even before she came on. Leana de Bruin had been substituted, with Katrina Grant replacing her but when the Ferns' coaches saw the long legs of Bassett lope on to the court the GK bib was thrown back in the direction of de Bruin.

With seconds on the clock Bassett sank the goal that sent the game into extra time, then she came up with the winning shot in the extra period.

"She was pretty fresh and green when she first came onto the scene," says Kopua. "But that is the same for many players and she has come along well."

The Ferns have one of the best defensive units in the game and can deal with tall shooters - look at how they have handled Romelda Aiken over the years - but the presence of Bassett does change the dynamic between the two teams. It gives the Diamonds a "get out" aerial option which they haven't always had on attack, with their tradition of shorter, mobile shooters.

Bassett's productivity under the hoop - she is almost guaranteed to be a heavy scorer in every game - also adds pressure for the Ferns further up the court. Van Dyk and Maria Tutaia will need to match her goal for goal to maintain parity and then the New Zealanders will hope to strangle the service into Bassett.

"She is obviously a threat and has become increasingly valuable for them over the last couple of years," says Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu. "But we know what's coming, we have prepared ... and we will have to be ready."

- NZ Herald

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