From unloved and unfancied to genuine title contenders, the Silver Ferns have blitzed their way into the World Cup final in Sydney with an incredible unbeaten run. Dana Johannsen and Radio Sport's Rikki Swannell answer the big questions ahead of this afternoon's showdown with Australia.
What's this? The Ferns are in the final? I thought they weren't a shot this year?
DJ: I'll admit, with a new untested line-up, I thought the Ferns were in danger of missing out on the final this year. But Casey Kopua's side seem to have fed off that low public expectation, going out and taking this tournament by the scruff of the neck by playing an exciting, fearless brand of netball. The team has worked incredibly hard since coming together just over a month ago to build a game plan suited to their strengths and it was obvious there was something different about this side when they toppled Australia in pool play.
RS: Well turns out just about everyone was wrong. England barely fired a shot and Jamaica still can't sustain four quarters, but that's not to say that New Zealand does not thoroughly deserve to be there.
New players, a new game plan and a fresh mindset are just a few factors that have contributed to the Silver Ferns reaching the final and have given them a damn good shout at winning it.
Is it the Silver Ferns' title to lose?
DJ: No, while New Zealand will be on the "home" bench by virtue of having beaten the Diamonds on day three, I still think it is Australia's title to lose - they are the defending champions after all. As Waimarama Taumaunu says, one game does not make a trend, and you cannot ignore the impressive record the Diamonds have amassed over the past two years.
RS: No I still think it is in the hands of the Aussies...which makes it look like I'm contradicting myself with answers one and three! That one performance on Sunday does not erase Australia's exemplary record over the past few years and the absolute quality of the squad. But with that favouritism comes huge pressure, and there's certainly the sense the Silver Ferns are quite happy to let the Diamonds take the favourites tag.
Now Australia know what's coming, can the Ferns pull it off again?
DJ: They absolutely can. While New Zealand had the element of surprise on their side in their pool play meeting with Australia, just because the Diamonds know what's coming, doesn't mean they can stop it. But for the Ferns to take out the title today they will need every single player to execute the gameplan under what will be intense physical and mental pressure.
RS: Sure. Why not? Maybe I'm getting soft or misty eyed in my old age, or been swept away by the overwhelming positivity around this team despite still having flaws, but it's hard to remember a Ferns side in recent times that has exuded such confidence and been so assured in its game plan.
Certainly Australia will be better prepared than what they were in the pool game last Sunday and the element of surprise is gone for New Zealand, but analysis is one thing - putting it into practice in a pressure cooker environment is entirely different altogether.
It feels like we've gone back to the 2010-2012 era when we'd go into a match and have no certainty whatsoever about the outcome.