Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Netball: Langman's extraordinary run nears end

Laura Langman in action for the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty
Laura Langman in action for the Silver Ferns. Photo / Getty

This week's final test of the Constellation Cup will mark the end of something extraordinary.

Since making her international debut as a teenager in 2005, Laura Langman has featured in the midcourt in every test for the Silver Ferns. That incredible run of consecutive appearances is set to come to an abrupt halt following test number 141 on Thursday night.

The Ferns final hit-out of the year against Australia in Invercargill will be Langman's last game in the black dress for a while, with the midcourt veteran ineligible for national selection next season after taking up a contract in the new Australian domestic league.

The 30 year-old has made it clear she will be back, eyeing up a return to the New Zealand league in 2018 in order to stake her claim for a spot in the Commonwealth Games team. But among the netball community there is great sadness that Langman's stunning record - one that is unlikely to ever be matched - is coming to a premature end.

Langman insists the impending end to her unprecedented streak is not weighing on her mind approaching Thursday's final hit-out.

"I'm not putting too much energy into thinking about it to be honest, it is what it is and I still have a lot of netball ahead of me and I'm really excited so I don't think there's any real time to be sad," she said.

New Zealand captain Katrina Grant has allowed herself time to feel sad about the prospect of her "wingman" being absent next season. Grant, who took on the captaincy role this year, said she has relied heavily on the experience and support of Langman to guide her through the challenges of leadership.

"It's hard not to be sad, it's like "you're leaving me?" It's pretty tough, but Laura has been around a long time and I totally respect her decision. This is what she wants to do for her netball career and it's a great challenge for her and it's a chance for someone else to step in and get some experience," said Grant.

"I think we can turn it into a real positive. She will go and grow her game, and we can grow our team and have other people coming through. And then when she comes back we'll be in a really good place."

In the interim however, the Ferns are in for some challenging times.

Langman is the only player in the squad that has played every minute of the Ferns eight tests so far this season. She is a central figure in not only the Ferns first choice midcourt line-up, but also their alternate combinations.

New Zealand coach Janine Southby admitted without the ever-reliable Langman, it places huge pressure on others to step up.

"It's tough because Laura has been such a workhorse over the last few years and her work ethic is second to none. She leads by example in everything she does on and off court, so she'll leave a big hole," said Southby.

"I guess whenever there is a hole there is an opportunity."

Further compounding the Ferns midcourt problems is the injury to Kayla Cullen, who underwent foot surgery yesterday. The versatile midcourter is expected to be out for three months while she rehabs the injury, putting her in danger of missing out on February's tour to South Africa and the UK for the return leg of the Quad Series.

"It was one of those things that needed to happen and she is on a rehab programme already, pretty much the day after surgery," said Southby.

"She's got some work to do, and I guess it will be like Maria and Anna coming back in after their injuries. We just have to manage that and get them court time and get them on their feet."

- NZ Herald

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