Expectations are high in the Junior Tall Ferns camp a day out from the start of the two game series against the China Under 19 team with the games to be played on Wednesday and Thursday at Cowles Stadium in Christchurch.

Cowles Stadium is familiar territory for a couple of players. The Canterbury pair of Charlotte Whittaker and Esra McGoldrick have played plenty of school, club and representative basketball in the arena but never an international.

It is certainly an exciting prospect for the Cantabrians who will be donning the black singlet in front of many close family and friends.

Whittaker, just 16 years old, has already gained a sizeable amount of experience playing against Chinese opposition this year.


She was a member of the Junior Tall Ferns squad that toured China in April and in June had her first taste of senior international basketball playing for the New Zealand Select team against China B.

In contrast McGoldrick missed the tour of China as she recovered from major Knee surgery. The Rangi Ruru Girls student injured her knee playing for Canterbury at the Under 17 National Championships in July last year and spent eight months recovering from an ACL reconstruction.

"It's been a while, coming back is very intense. Everything is all new but it is going to be so exciting coming back against China. It will be a great experience," said McGoldrick.

The Year 12 student is excited to be playing in familiar surrounds.

"My Rangi team are all coming, they have brought about 50 tickets, and are still buying more. Even the boarding girls are planning to come down and support which is great. I think it is going to a crazy crowd which will be good," enthused McGoldrick.

Playing an international in her home city is also appealing for Whittaker. The Rangiora High School student is looking forward to stepping out on her home court.

"It's awesome especially because it is in my home town and Esra's home town. It is so lucky that the game is here and everyone can come and watch.

"I also think it is a good opportunity for Christchurch bearing in mind all the things have happened in the city over the years. It's awesome to have an international game that people can come and watch. Children can look at all the amazing athletes we have in our team and hopefully want to be like them," she said.

The games against China are a key component of the team's preparation for the FIBA Oceania Championships, in Fiji, this December. The Championships will double as the Qualifying Tournament for the 2017 FIBA Under 19 World Championships.

Junior Tall Ferns Head coach Brent Matehaere is just as enthusiastic as his players about hosting international games.

"The girls take a huge amount of pride in playing for New Zealand. It is an honour to stand, look up to our flag and sing the national anthem.

"Many of the girls have family travelling to the game and to have their support is invaluable", he said.