Netball gurus Dana Johannsen and Rikki Swannell answer the burning questions following the Silver Ferns disappointing 60-55 defeat to Australia in last night's Quad Series decider.
It was all going so well for a while there, what the heck happened?
In a word - pressure. Both of the mental and physical kind. The Australian style of relentless, suffocating defence tends to start paying off over the latter stages of the match when bodies are tired and players have been worn down by the constant physical barrage. After battling so hard to keep pace with the free-scoring Australians for most of the match, that effort took its toll on the Ferns in the final five minutes. Lacking the same punch and drive on attack as bodies tired, the Ferns were guilty of a couple of soft turnovers, while Bailey Mes, who had a torrid time in the circle all evening, missed couple of crucial shots. Game over. Series over.
RS: Relentless Australian defence put the Silver Ferns attack under huge pressure in the final five minutes. There were times during the match where Australia threatened to get away on NZ, only for the Ferns to pull off an important turnover or force a mistake from the Aussies. That dried up in the latter stages. The defensive effort outside the circle and the relentless work inside by Australia meant the ball going in was stressed, putting Mes under increasing pressure, and her shot fell away badly.
What's the key stat that will be concerning Janine Southby and co following that match?
The influence of Australian shooter Caitlin Bassett. The 1.93m sharpshooter netted her highest international return of 53 goals last night, shooting all but seven of her side's total tally. Rookie defender Jane Watson, who made her first international start last night, and skipper Katrina Grant came up with some impressive defensive stops, but they were outweighed by easy feeds going into the circle. The New Zealand defence end seems to lack the height and intimidation factor right now to shut down Bassett.
RS: Shooting accuracy of 55/71 is the obvious. It's not a new problem for the Ferns in the past two years, but unfortunately appears to be one they'll have to continue to live with every so often. The issue is trying to offset that by being able to apply the same pressure down the other end. Watson and Grant picked up plenty of ball, but no team has ever been able to find a strategy to stop Caitlin Bassett for extended periods. She misses a few herself and can be put under pressure, but the feed into her is far too easy at times.
Was last night a preview of what we can expect in the Constellation Cup next month?
It was a good preview in the sense of the type of close, physical battles we can expect from the two sides, but I don't think the result is a foregone conclusion. Given where they are at in their development, the young Ferns side will be pleased with many facets of their performance last night having had the Diamonds rattled at several points. The team also have two key players in Maria Tutaia and Anna Harrison who will likely be welcomed back into the fold next month, shoring up each end of the court.
RS: Yes I think so, but with the added bonus of seeing who can grow as a team, develop their strategies and play consistently across four big matches. Given the changes to the Ferns on and off the court, they're the team with the most room to improve and showed a real determination to stay in the fight last night when Australia tried to put the foot down. The height and guile of Harrison to either help combat Bassett or at least the feed into her will be an important addition to the Ferns, as of course will the return of Tutaia.