By JULIE ASH
Netball New Zealand held its season launch in Auckland yesterday, but Monday is the big day, with the announcement of the Silver Ferns and their new captain to tour Jamaica.
Twenty-nine of the country's top netballers will take part in a three-day training camp in Auckland this weekend.
New Silver Ferns coach Ruth Aitken and selectors Adrianne Hayes, Annette Heffernan and Te Aroha Keenan, will select 14 players to tour Jamaica from February 25 to March 8, and 12 players for the New Zealand A team to play against Australian state teams in Newcastle, from February 12 to 17.
Former Silver Ferns Belinda Charteris, Lorna Suafoa and Tania Dalton, and former New Zealand A player Katie Fay, have been invited to join the camp.
Aitken will coach both sides until a New Zealand A coach is appointed.
She said the weekend's camp would give her chance to see who had put in the work over summer and who was really prepared to put their hand up.
"It is interesting having the two teams picked out of the one lot of trials," she said.
"This is quite different to what normally happens. The heat is on them to perform."
Defence will be a concern following the retirement of Bernice Mene and the unavailability of Linda Vagana and Vilimaina Davu.
"Because Bernice and Linda have been there for so long, no one else has had a chance, so you open the door for others, and that is what I find exciting.
"We know that we will have to work hard as a team on defence.
"It won't be fair to leave it to someone new coming in,"Aitken said.
"It will be great going away to play them, and by having the opportunity to take the New Zealand A team to Newcastle, it is really throwing them into the cauldron and it will be great to see who rises to that challenge."
After the Jamaican series the Silver Ferns will play Barbados in Invercargill on June 29, Wellington on July 1 and on Auckland's North Shore two days later.
Then they have the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in July and August.
At yesterday's launch, Netball New Zealand said the National Bank had taken naming rights to the national franchise competition, formerly known as the Coca-Cola Cup.
The National Bank Cup, involving nine regional teams, starts on April 5. The semifinals for the top four teams are on the weekend of June 1-2, and the final the following Saturday.
The teams, from north to south, are the Force (North Shore and Northland), the Diamonds (Auckland-Waitakere), the Cometz (Counties Manukau), the Magic (Bay of Plenty), the Flyers (Taranaki-Manawatu-Wanganui), the Shakers (Wellington), the Flames (Canterbury), the Rebels (Otago) and the Sting (Southland).
Silver Ferns trialists: Belinda Colling, Angela Evans, Julie Seymour, Anna Veronese, Belinda Charteris, Maree Grubb (Flames), Jenny-May Coffin, Victoria Edward, Joline Henry, Koren Pickard, Julie Kelman-Poto, Amigene Metcalfe (Magic), Sheryl Clarke, Temepare George, Daneka Wipiiti, Lorna Suafoa (Force), Adine Harper, Donna Loffhagen, Lesley Nicol, Tania Dalton, Kylie Young (Sting), Anna Rowberry, Katie Fay, Rachel Rasmussen (Diamonds), Irene Van Dyk, Jodi Te Huna (Shakers), Katie Ritchie (Rebels), Nicolette Ropati, Allison Toi (Cometz).
By JULIE ASH