Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Katrina Grant set to captain Silver Ferns

Katrina Grant in action. Photo / Dean Purcell
Katrina Grant in action. Photo / Dean Purcell

Katrina Grant is set to succeed her close friend and former defensive partner Casey Kopua as captain of the Silver Ferns.

The Herald understands the 29-year-old will be unveiled as the next national captain tomorrow, when new coach Janine Southby names her line-up for this month's netball quad series.

It will be Southby's first team selection since being appointed to the top job late last year and the appointment of Grant is expected to be just one of several change-ups to the side as they start a new four-year cycle.

Grant, who has captained the Pulse since 2011, is somewhat of an unexpected choice, with veteran midcourter Laura Langman considered the frontrunner for the role.

But with Langman making the move to the NSW Swifts this season and as-yet non-committal about her playing future in New Zealand, Grant was seen as a more secure long-term option.

The hard-working defender, who debuted for the Ferns in 2009, is known as one of the characters of the side and is well-liked by her teammates.

A forthright talker, Grant wears her heart on her sleeve and was impressive in the wake of the Ferns' devastating loss to Australia at last year's World Cup, fronting up to media at the airport the next day when many of her senior teammates had already departed on scheduled breaks.

But her passion has also got her in trouble on occasion - most notably in 2014 when she became the first player in ANZ Championship history to front a judicial hearing following a run-in with an umpire. Grant escaped without punishment.

Langman is still expected to be a key member of the Ferns leadership group alongside star shooter Maria Tutaia.

The latter will be out of action for at least the first part of the Silver Ferns' campaign this season as she recovers from a foot injury that plagued her during the ANZ Championship.

Tutaia's absence further depletes the Ferns' shooting stocks that lost Jodi Brown (retired) and Malia Paseka (pregnant).

The loss of the trio has opened the door for Cathrine Tuivaiti's return to the national fray for the first time since 2014, after being overlooked for the World Cup line-up last year.

Tuivaiti is expected to join Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (nee Wells) and newcomer Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who impressed for the Southern Steel this season.

Several changes are also expected in the defensive end, with Grant considered the only straightforward selection.

With international netball entering a new four-year cycle, now is considered the ideal time to introduce young talent.

That means it is unlikely both Leana de Bruin and Anna Harrison will make the cut.

Steel defender Jane Watson has been talked up as a chance to receive a maiden call-up, but it is understood she did not trial as well as hoped this week.

The midcourt is the only area where no changes are expected, with incumbents Langman, Grace Rasmussen, Kayla Cullen and Shannon Francois favoured over the next crop of youngsters Gina Crampton, Sam Sinclair and Jamie-Lee Price.

- NZ Herald

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