Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Silver Ferns: Rookie, returnee and vice captain stand out in famous comeback win

A rookie shooter, a returning wildcard and an ever-present star were at the forefront of a stunning 14-goal turnaround for the Silver Ferns in last night's Constellation Cup victory in Launceston.

After falling meekly to the Diamonds in Sunday's 68-56 opening defeat, few gave the Ferns a chance of even winning a game over the remainder of the four-test series. But somewhere on the journey to Tasmania the Ferns found their mettle.

The New Zealand shocked the Australians with their ferocious fightback to level the series and deliver new coach Janine Southby her first win over the world champions.

There were gutsy performances right across the court for New Zealand in the tightly fought 53-51 win, but three players stood out: Anna Harrison, Laura Langman and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.

Harrison delivered the defensive bite, x-factor and inspirational plays.

It's been over five years since Harrison last wore the goal keep bib for the Ferns against Australia. In the intervening years she found herself pushed out of the circle due to the formidable partnership of Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin, and instead had to settle for playing impact role at wing defence.

The absence of the pair this season (Kopua is on maternity leave, while de Bruin has retired) left an opening in the Ferns goal circle, but a pesky calf injury delayed Harrison's return to international netball following the birth of her second child last year.

The injury lay-off saw Harrison cede her position in the starting line-up to Jane Watson. But after Watson was monstered by 1.93m shooter Caitlin Bassett in game one, Harrison was quickly thrown back in the last line of defence. She relished in her duty.

Harrison's added height, strength in air and ability to disrupt both the feed and the shot with her long limbs was reflected in her impressive stats of five intercepts and 11 deflections. But of greater value were the areas of her game that aren't necessarily reflected in the stats sheet - her ability to get under the skin of a shooter and force them into errors they wouldn't ordinarily make.

Langman - as she has done so often in her previous 138 tests - did the grind.

The veteran midcourter, who was forced back to wing defence in the absence of Kayla Cullen, shut down midcourt speedster Madison Robinson - the key link in the Diamonds' supply chain to Bassett - with a tireless defensive performance.

Langman has long been seen as a potential foil to the influential Robinson, with the two players evenly matched in speed and footwork. The problem is, the star midcourter is also the Ferns' first-choice centre.

Langman's dominance over Robinson last night has proven the merits of allowing the veteran to concentrate on a more defensive role.

Selby-Rickit provided the poise and composure on attack.

In just her sixth international outing and first test start against Australia, Selby-Rickit was a revelation at goal attack.

The youngster's height and strength out in front provided the Ferns with a reliable target, particularly on second phase play, while her deft touch with her passing into the circle helped put Bailey Mes into good space.

When the scores were tight down the home stretch, most would have expected it would be the Ferns to falter on attack - as they have done so many times before against the Diamonds.

Selby-Rickit ensured they didn't, producing a brave performance in the goal circle under a mountain of physical and mental pressure.

- NZ Herald

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