Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Mystics coach backs young stars

Ex Silver Fern Debbie Fuller, coach for Northern Mystics. Photo / Claire De Barr
Ex Silver Fern Debbie Fuller, coach for Northern Mystics. Photo / Claire De Barr

Mystics coach Debbie Fuller says she won't shy away from promoting her side's young talent against the top Australian sides.

The Mystics feature four rookies this season- Holly Fowler, Fa'amu Ioane, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and Megan Craig - and Fuller wasted little time in throwing the young stars into action.

Fowler and Ioane were among the record 13 ANZ Championship debutants in the opening round and both were in the Mystics run-on side in last week's one-goal loss to the Southern Steel.

But the idea of taking on the Steel, who themselves are a relatively young line-up, would have been a much less intimidating prospect for the two newcomers than some of the star-studded Australian line-ups.

The Mystics get their first opportunity to test themselves against one of the heavyweight Australian sides in their round two clash against the visiting West Coast Fever side on Monday.

Fuller said her approach to selection won't change for the clash, so it is likely the Mystics coach will continue her strategy of using the young stars in an impact role.

"Holly and Fa'amu have shown massive courage and proved they belong where they are," she said.

"They've both had really big workloads leading into the season and they are fully prepared to take on that challenge."

Ioane's rise to Mystics starter has been one of the fairytale stories of the pre-season, after the 20-year-old was originally included in the line-up as a centre-wing defence option.

A back injury to Nadia Loveday forced a reshuffle of the midcourt during last month's pre-season tournament and Ioane was moved to wing attack for a couple of spells.

The youngster's speed, change of direction and timing on to the ball made her a natural fit for wing attack, earning her the starting role in last week's opener.

"For her to be a rookie in the ANZ and learning a new position tells you a lot about the kind of character she is.

"She has not shied away from the challenge and is committed to getting it 100 per cent right for the team," said Fuller.

After the disappointment of last week's embarrassing one-goal defeat to the Steel, in which the Mystics let a commanding lead slip away in the dying minutes, the Auckland side will need to show much stronger resolve to get past the impressive Fever, led by the Australian Diamonds shooting combination of Natalie Medhurst and Caitlin Bassett.

This weekend will provide the first glimpse of the next tier of New Zealand netball talent as the inaugural Beko League kicks off tomorrow.

The opening round match sees South take on Northern following tomorrow afternoon's transtasman league clash between the Steel and Tactix.

- NZ Herald

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