Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Silver Ferns seek major improvements in remaining Quad Series tests

Silver Ferns defender Anna Harrison says early season rust cannot be used as an excuse for her side's opening Quad Series loss to Australia. Photo/PHOTOSPORT
Silver Ferns defender Anna Harrison says early season rust cannot be used as an excuse for her side's opening Quad Series loss to Australia. Photo/PHOTOSPORT

The Silver Ferns will attempt to ease their frustration over their lacklustre start to the Quad Series by taking it out on England on Friday.

The Ferns opened the series with a disappointing 57-50 loss to Australia in last weekend's opener to all but hand the trophy to the Diamonds. With the four competing teams only facing off against each other once, the New Zealand side will not get another crack at Australia to try and put things right on the court.

Instead, the only recourse for them now as the series moves from South Africa to England is to show noticeable progression in the remaining tests.

The Ferns first opportunity to do so is against England in Liverpool on Friday morning.

Despite facing a gruelling travel schedule between the first and second tests, New Zealand coach Janine Southby is expecting a much more clinical and consistent performance from her side.

"We had some good reflections after the game and I would hope those reflections are put into action going into the England game," said Southby.

The New Zealand coaching staff has identified two key areas for improvement after the loss to an understrength Diamonds side: their starts, and their commitment on defence.

The Ferns appeared caught off guard in the opening quarter by Australia's intensity and found themselves down 16-10 at the first break - a margin from which they could never recover. Southby was also disappointed by her side's through-court defence, and believed the attackers needed to do more to put their opposition under pressure.

In some ways the Ferns early-season rust was understandable given they had no match-play in the lead-up to the series. But veteran defender Anna Harrison said her side cannot lean on this as a justification.

"It is hard switching those netball brains on at this time of year and after that amount of travel, there's a few factors," said Harrison.

"We can't use that excuse too much because the line-up that was on, with the exception of [debutant Sam Sinclair], has played together quite a bit now. It comes down to not performing well enough."

After travelling 25 hours Durban to Liverpool, the Ferns had the opportunity to shake off the jetlag with a training match against the Manchester Thunder yesterday. Southby said the match had provided her with some "food for thought" as she mulls over her starting line-up for Friday's match.

The English are also coming off a disappointing opening performance, having been pushed into extra time by a plucky South African side before eventually edging the hosts 60-55. The last time the Ferns met England in August last year, the Kiwi side ran out 26-goal winners, but Southby said tomorrow's match is a much different proposition.

"Playing England in England in their winter is always really challenging. We know that we have to be at our best to win this game."

● In today's Quad Series match, Australia made it two from two after overwhelming South Africa 62-46 in Durban. The two sides will now fly to London, where they will be joined by England and the Silver Ferns, for Monday's final double-header.

- NZ Herald

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