Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Halpenny named in Silver Ferns squad

Ellen Halpenny in action for the Magic. Photo / Getty Images
Ellen Halpenny in action for the Magic. Photo / Getty Images

The Magic's Ellen Halpenny will step into the Silver Ferns shooting spot left vacant following the unexpected retirement of Irene van Dyk for next month's Commonwealth Games.

Halpenny is the only uncapped player named in the 12-strong team for the Glasgow tournament after being elevated from outside the wider Silver Ferns squad straight into the test line-up for the pinnacle event.

The 23-year-old Cantabrian, who moved north to the Magic last year, has been New Zealand's best performing goal attack across the transtasman league season, landing more goals than both Maria Tutaia and Pulse veteran Donna Wilkins at an accuracy rate of just under 82 per cent.

Halpenny is joined by recalled veterans Liana Leota and Anna Harrison as the key changes to the side. Leota, who returned to the court late in the season following the birth of her third child in March, last played for the Ferns in 2011, while Harrison missed the 2013 international season due to pregnancy.

Leota is joined by the Steel's Shannon Francois in the midcourt, with in-form Magic wing attack Grace Rasmussen and the Pulse's Camilla Lees the unlucky players to miss selection in a tight race. New Zealand coach Waimarama Taumaunu said there were some tough selection decisions but she and the national selectors are confident the 12 players selected provided a strong combination of youth and experience.

While Halpenny has been in strong form for the Magic, many had tipped the selectors would plump for Mystics utility Bailey Mes in the fourth shooting spot. Despite limited court time at ANZ Championship level, Mes was expected to be the frontrunner having toured England with the Ferns at the beginning of the year. But Taumaunu said Halpenny's versaility and greater experience in the transtasman league gave her the edge.

"We are pleased to be able to name a new cap in the team, Ellen has had a very strong ANZ Championship season with the Magic, her addition to the side means we have cover for both GA and GS," Taumaunu said.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said that she was delighted to welcome the players to the team for Glasgow 2014. "Netball is one of the highlights of the Commonwealth Games and we know New Zealanders will be right behind the players named today," she said.

"Glasgow 2014 will feature the world's best netball teams all vying for the gold medal. The competition will be tough but we have no doubts our team will be ready for the challenge."

Halpenny, Francois, Cathrine Latu, and Jodi Brown will all be attending their first Commonwealth Games for New Zealand.

Brown was named in the New Zealand team in 2006, but was forced to withdraw due to injury while Latu has previously represented Samoa at a Commonwealth Games.

The Ferns leave New Zealand on July 14 and head to Bath, England for a week-long training camp before making their way up to Scotland for the Games. New Zealand are the defending Commonwealth champions after defeating Australia in Delhi four years ago in a thrilling double extra time match.

The team of 12 is:
Casey Kopua (captain), Laura Langman (vice-captain), Jodi Brown, Leana de Bruin, Shannon Francois, Katrina Grant, Ellen Halpenny, Anna Harrison, Joline Henry, Cathrine Latu, Liana Leota and Maria Tutaia.

- NZ Herald

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