Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Defender feels heat on debut

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit defends against Jane Chimaliro of Malawi during the first test in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit defends against Jane Chimaliro of Malawi during the first test in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

It was an unexpected show of raw emotion from a player known for her understated manner.

As the national anthem played ahead of the opening test against Malawi in Wellington on Thursday, Silver Ferns defender Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, making her test debut on her home court, looked overcome with emotion.

It turns out she was more overcome by the heat inside Wellington's TSB Arena.

"Everyone keeps saying that I looked really emotional, all my friends have been texting me and saying 'oh were you crying last night' and I actually wasn't, I was sweating," Selby-Rickit said.

"It was so hot in the stadium, I had to put my hands down because when you hug them you feel their body heat and start sweating even more."

Which is not to say the sense of occasion wasn't lost on the young defender.

A member of the wider Silver Ferns squad for the past couple of seasons, Selby-Rickit's debut has been a long time coming.

She was called into the test side for the first time this season for the Constellation Cup, but was dropped for the Australian leg of the series as New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu opted to call in reinforcements for the struggling midcourt, only to be recalled to the group when defender Leana de Bruin injured her calf ahead of the third test in Adelaide.

Having soaked up plenty of knowledge from being a part of the Australian tour, Selby-Rickit said she was excited to finally get the opportunity out on court.

"It was pretty exciting, I was nervous - very, very nervous actually, but it was great to get out on court in the black dress," she said.

"I love being part of the team, and it's been really great to be able to watch and observe and really learn off all the girls and put that into action at training."

The Central Pulse defender, known for her innate ability to read a game, admits she took some time to adjust to the unorthodox style of the visiting Malawi side in the Ferns' 70-32 win in Thursday night's opener. She was not alone.

The New Zealand side struggled early on to find their timing on attack and through-court links as the world number five side did an impressive job of disrupting their rhythm. The main objective for the Ferns heading into tomorrow's second test in Napier is to execute their gameplan better and adjust more quickly to Malawi's tactics.

After sticking with the same starting seven for the entire match, Taumaunu is again expected to keep a settled line-up for the second test, although an entirely different starting seven will be trialled.

The likes of Cathrine Latu, Maria Tutaia and Casey Kopua should be back in the starting line-up, while Ferns newcomer Katarina Cooper is expected to become the fourth Silver Fern to make her debut this season.

Cooper, who was a shock selection in the New Zealand squad this season after missing the ANZ Championship, is now being looked more in the centre and wing defence roles given there has been so many change-ups already this year at wing attack.

The Ferns' build-up to tomorrow's second test faced a minor disruption yesterday with the two sides forced to endure a 5-hour bus ride to Napier after wild weather in the capital forced the cancellation of flights.

Wild weather in capital puts the wind up Sky coverage

It wasn't just the Silver Ferns' travel plans that were disrupted by the wild weather in Wellington.

Cancelled and delayed flights played havoc with Sky TV's planned netball coverage for Thursday night's opening test against Malawi. With the bulk of the commentary team and key technical staff stranded in Auckland after being unable to land in Wellington, the broadcaster had no option but to delay the start of its coverage by 30 minutes. It went to air at 7.30pm - 10 minutes before the start of the match - with former Silver Fern Belinda Colling and Sky presenter Rikki Swannell fronting the coverage while the remaining hosts, who had been rebooked on a later flight, scrambled to get to the stadium.

Veteran commentator Jenny Woods raced into the venue just as the coverage was crossing to the national anthems, having been forced to change in the back of a taxi on the way from the airport to the TSB Arena on the Wellington waterfront. By the time the anthems were over, a breathless Woods had taken up her position in the commentary box - the audience unaware of the drama that had gone before.

Temepara Bailey and Tania Dalton arrived after the quarter-time break - just in time to provide expert comments during the halftime break. Another host, Melodie Robinson, was unable to be rebooked on the later flight and missed the broadcast altogether.

- NZ Herald

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