Returning Silver Ferns stars won't be rushed back into action

Anna Harrison is under pressure to get back up to speed quickly for the Silver Ferns following the late scratching of Kayla Cullen. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.
Anna Harrison is under pressure to get back up to speed quickly for the Silver Ferns following the late scratching of Kayla Cullen. Photo/PHOTOSPORT.

Returning Silver Ferns star Anna Harrison is under pressure to get back up to speed quickly following the late scratching of Kayla Cullen from this month's Constellation Cup.

Harrison and star shooter Maria Tutaia rejoined the Silver Ferns in camp this morning as the team departed for Australia ahead of Sunday's opener in Sydney. The pair were sidelined for first half of the international season with niggly injuries - Tutaia battling a foot complaint, while Harrison dealt with a calf issue.

With just three days to prepare for the opening match, the pair have a lot of work to do to reintegrate themselves into a Ferns environment that has undergone significant change since they were last in the black dress.

While Tutaia and Harrison have recovered from their injuries and deemed fully fit, the focus now is reconditioning themselves for international netball after two months on the sidelines.

New Zealand coach Janine Southby planned to introduce the pair back into the fold slowly across the course of the four-test series, picking an extended squad of 14 to allow her to do so. But the withdrawal of Cullen, who succumbed to a foot injury during last month's series against Jamaica, has created a little more urgency around Harrison's return.

Over the past two seasons Cullen has established herself as the Ferns first choice wing defence - a role Harrison has filled on occasion.

Southby said she is wary about rushing Harrison straight back into action.

"I'd like to think we won't need to rush people back in and players get out on court because they have earned the spot out there. Anna certainly does bring something different in that wing defence role and it's nice to have her back in the group for that," said Southby.

"The physios and strength and conditioning staff worked really hard to make sure the programmes we had [Harrison and Tutaia] progressing on were as close as possible to what we do in camp. I don't know if we'll be waiting with baited breath, but we're obviously really keen to see how they come through that first training tomorrow. There's a plan in place for them to do that so we can use them through the series, but at this stage we are still guided by the medical team."

Harrison, who has not played for the Ferns since the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is desperate to hit the court following her false start to the international season.

The 33 year-old defender was ruled out of the Quad Series on the eve of the opening clash against England and has watched on as rookie defender Jane Watson excelled in her absence. Harrison said the pressure to quickly regain her best form was already on before Cullen's withdrawal.

"I put that pressure on myself before knowing about Kayla's injury. I want to come in here and hit the ground running. I'm here because I want to be here and want to be performing at my best, I don't just want to cruise and come along for the ride."

Harrison rates herself at being about 90 per cent off her top form. She said physically she is up for the challenge of taking on the world champions, but she is still seeking to regain confidence and momentum.

- NZ Herald

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