Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Laura Langman's Silver Ferns hiatus confirmed

Laura Langman will be ineligible to play for the Silver Ferns in 2017 after signing with the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the new Australian league. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.
Laura Langman will be ineligible to play for the Silver Ferns in 2017 after signing with the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the new Australian league. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.

Star midcourter Laura Langman says she is "hugely sad" her decision to sign with the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the Australian league next season will rule her out of Silver Ferns selection.

Langman was today confirmed in the Lightning line-up for the 2017 season, linking up with her long-time mentor Noeline Taurua at the new start-up team, which is backed by the Melbourne Storm NRL club and based out of the Sunshine Coast University.

The move will see Langman will hit the pause button on her international career, bringing an end to her unprecedented run of 137 straight test matches for the Silver Ferns since she made her debut as a teenager in 2005.

While the idea of maintaining that unbroken run never came into Langman's thinking, she said she is disappointed she has had to turn her back on the black dress in order to extend herself as a player in the Australian league.

"I've never really been about that record, but I am sad I won't be playing for the Ferns next year. The reason I train every day is to because I want to be available to represent my country at the highest level, that's why we play, that's why we train. I prided myself on that so it's hugely sad this is the case. But I understand, I respect Netball NZ and what they're trying to create."

Langman has stressed this is not the end of her Ferns career. With no major events on the horizon next season, she considered it an opportune time to sabbatical from international netball with the view to returning to the New Zealand competition in 2018 ahead of the Commonwealth Games and 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.

"I will be back and I look forward to seeking out another adventure in the second half of the year next year."

Netball NZ's policy states athletes must be based in New Zealand and play for a domestic franchise to be eligible for national selection.

Langman was granted a special exemption to the rule this year after signing with the NSW Swifts for what turned out to be the final season of the ANZ Championship, but the split in the transtasman league and the move back to standalone domestic competitions saw Netball NZ take a more uncompromising position. The Ferns vice captain said she tried to enter into dialogue with the national body to get an exemption once more, but was unable to get them to budge.

Taurua, who was controversially overlooked for the Silver Ferns coaching job last year, said while she doesn't necessarily agree with Netball NZ's stance, she can understand it.

"I can see their thinking with the new New Zealand competition. Netball NZ want it to be a strong competition and make sure they have the best talent around. But I can also understand where Laura is as well, and to be honest I think it will still come back as a win-win situation for everybody. If she decides she wants to come back for the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, which at this stage she does, I know she will come back as a better athlete."

Langman is one of four imports at the Lightning side, joining fellow Kiwi and former Magic teammate Erena Mikaere, English star Geva Mentor and South African defender Karla Mostert.

The team is headlined by Australian sharpshooter Caitlin Bassett, who was unveiled as their star signing last week alongside Diamonds rookie Steph Wood.

Taurua said she is excited to have the opportunity to work with some of international netball's biggest stars.

"I guess that was the drawcards for me to go over there - one to be challenged as a coach and a person and to learn about the landscape over there, and two to work with the calibre of players like Caitlin and Geva, who are such big icons in the world game, and see what I can add to their game."

Sunshine Coast Lightning:
Caitlin Bassett, Stephanie Wood, Cara Koenen, Laura Langman, Laura Scherian, Kelsey Browne, Madeline McAuliffe, Geva Mentor, Erena Mikaere, Karla Mostert.

- NZ Herald

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