Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Ferns out to restore pride

Team look to go some way to atoning for a dreadful series against the Diamonds

Jodi Brown says her main focus for the series is to improve her shooting volume. Photo / Getty Images
Jodi Brown says her main focus for the series is to improve her shooting volume. Photo / Getty Images

It's all about the numbers for the Silver Ferns over the next week.

Coming off a disastrous 4-1 series loss to Australia, the big focus for the Ferns during the three-test series against Malawi beginning in Wellington tonight is restoring some pride in their game to ensure they head into the off-season in a more positive frame of mind. The problem is the world No 5 Malawi side will not offer the same intense competition as the top-tier nations, making it difficult to get a good feel for the Ferns' progress in this series.

New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu has therefore placed a strong focus on her side's statistics over the series, setting exacting standards for her side to meet. The emphasis is not so much on the scoreline, but individual goals and targets.

Shooter Jodi Brown said the team have all had detailed feedback from the coaching staff as to which areas of their game they need to develop over the Malawi series as they look to go some way to atoning for a dreadful series of performances against the Diamonds.

"Obviously we haven't been that successful against Australia and we all came in [to camp in Wellington] feeling a bit down, but after you lose you just want to get out on court and make it right again," said Brown.

"We're very numbers orientated in terms of our outcomes and stuff like that and if we can achieve our numbers during this series, I think we'll be a lot happier going into the offseason on a positive note."

Taumaunu has always been a keen netball number cruncher, but over the past few years the statistics available have become a lot more sophisticated.

The team's statistician and performance analyst, Bobby Willcox, sits next to Taumaunu on the team bench during games, feeding her real time data.

They're not only monitoring the key statistical categories like shooting volume and accuracy, centre pass receives, deflections, intercepts and pick-ups, but also detail like how many times a player will handle the ball in one possession, whether they predominantly take the ball on the first or second phase, and where the ball is being fed into the circle from.

Brown said her main focus for the series is to improve her shooting volume after averaging just 10 goals a game for the Steel during the ANZ Championship, and having the confidence to go to the post, rather than looking for the offload.

After failing to get out on court against the Diamonds Brown is expected to play more of a role against Malawi, where it will be important that she impresses if she is to firm up her place in next year's Commonwealth Games team. The veteran shooter said she was disappointed not to get an opportunity against Australia, but was happy with the progress she made in training matches.

"You train so hard to be here and it's always hard when you're not given the opportunities you would like. But at the same time with Maria [Tutaia] playing the way she did against Australia, she was just amazing, I don't think it was necessarily that position that needed changing," she said.

Malawi, who are touring in this part of the world for the first time, were hammered 83-34 and 64-37 by the Diamonds last week, and the African side are desperate to put in much more credible performances against the Ferns.

- NZ Herald

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