Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Silver Ferns to start over

The new national coach will probably have to introduce herself to some of the players at this week’s camp.
Vice-captain Laura Langman is a strong candidate to replace unavailable incumbent Casey Kopua as Silver Ferns skipper. Photo / Getty Images
Vice-captain Laura Langman is a strong candidate to replace unavailable incumbent Casey Kopua as Silver Ferns skipper. Photo / Getty Images

New coach, new squad and a new focus - this week's Silver Ferns camp represents ground zero for the national programme as it enters the next four-year cycle.

Janine Southby, who took over as coach from Wai Taumaunu at the end of last year, will lay the first foundations for the 2019 World Cup over the next week.

The Ferns and the national development squad assemble in Auckland on Wednesday for an intensive five days of testing, training and team building.

For Southby, ground zero means just that. Having coached at national age-group level, before taking over the Southern Steel, the new Ferns coach doesn't know a lot of the senior players particularly well.

Which is why she considers it a bit of a blessing a tri-series in Fiji, earmarked for this month, was scrapped late last year due to difficulties in finding a third opponent.

"It would have been great to have some test matches and just get going, but the reality is it has been a really short turnaround since my appointment and it is going to be good to have a little bit of down-time to establish and get some clarity around what we stand for and where we're heading," she said.

Given she is still in the getting-to-know-you phase with many of her players, Southby plans to hold off appointing a Ferns captain until she names her first test line-up in August.

Incumbent skipper Casey Kopua will miss this year's international season as she is pregnant with her first child, creating at the very least a temporary opening for a new captain.

Veteran midcourter Laura Langman, vice-captain for the past few seasons, appears the obvious candidate, and defender Katrina Grant is another who has been mooted. But Southby may feel the time is right to inject fresh energy into the team's leadership.

"We're certainly looking at the [captaincy] side of things," she said. "There are a number of really strong candidates there, so it's about players having the opportunity to first and foremost be players in the group and then get on to the leadership. We'll be looking at doing some professional development work with some of the players around [leadership] through the ANZ [Championship]."

Along with building a new team culture and setting performance standards, Southby hopes to establish a working relationship with the ANZ Championship coaches. One of the biggest challenges she identified when she took on the Ferns role was building trust with those coaches.

It helps that, until recently, Southby was in charge of her own franchise and understands the frustrations. But getting the coaches to buy into what she is doing is easier said than done when two of them - the Magic's Julie Fitzgerald and Noeline Taurua, who has taken over from Southby at the Steel - had designs on the top job themselves.

New Ferns coach Janine Southby. Photo / Jason Oxenham
New Ferns coach Janine Southby. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"It's vital everyone works together for the best of the players, and Wai has done a lot of work in that space. She connected with us earlier and tried to stay connected with the players through the programme.

"Each programme wants something slightly different from them, and a competition where they are playing on a weekly basis has different requirements from the international environment where they are in camp for periods of time and they have tighter turnarounds between games.

"It's a longer schedule and quite different from a franchise environment, so we've got to be mindful that during the ANZ season, their franchise time has to be their priority.

"But we also need to know that when they come back into our programme, they are at the right standards and they are ready to go to be able to deliver what we need them to as well."

Australia and England will be squaring off in a three-test series in Britain while the Ferns are in camp this week. Southby said she had a "spy" in England to report back on how those sides shaped up.

With both teams missing experienced stars, the series presents a good chance to scout Australia's and England's up-and-coming talent.

"It's quite interesting to look at those younger players and get a bit of an idea of what we can expect for the future and who's coming through. It will also be interesting to see if there are any new patterns or tactics they are using."

The national camp runs from Wednesday to Sunday.

Silver Ferns 2016 squad

• Bailey Mes (Tactix)
• Cathrine Latu (Mystics)
• Maria Tutaia (Mystics)
• Ameliaranne Wells (Pulse)
• Gina Crampton (Steel)
• Kayla Cullen (Mystics)
• Shannon Francois (Steel)
• Laura Langman (NSW Swifts)
• Grace Rasmussen (Magic)
• Leana de Bruin (Magic)
• Katrina Grant (Pulse)
• Anna Harrison (Mystics)
• Jess Moulds (Tactix)
• Storm Purvis (Steel)

- Herald on Sunday

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