Sportscall – The lack of international competition during the regular netball season was reflected in the Silver Ferns 52 to 39 record loss to England.
It wasn’t the start newly crowned Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua wanted and if anything was a well needed eye-opener.
With only five days to prepare for the Netball Quad Series match against England it’s fair to say a win over the world number two’s, even with a coach of Taurua’s calibre and Laura Langman returning, was a huge ask.
In the week leading up to the historic loss the Silver Ferns trained with and against each other with their final combination fine-tuned in a game against New Zealand A.
While the results weren’t disclosed, a game against the second tier side with players they have faced all season in the ANZ Premiership was hardly the simulation required against a classy English outfit.
Taurua worked with what she had and admits that England out muscled her side and the reality check of the standard of international netball was a big slap for even the best of New Zealand players.
“It looked very foreign if I’m going to be honest in regard to players not being use to that physicality, it’s something we have to get used to or we will be beaten like that,” says Taurua
“We have to be smarter and if we are going to take the body on we need to take it on stronger and not get pushed over.”
While the kiwi-style of play in the domestic competition has stayed intact and has in fact evolved over the 2018 season last night’s match was another reminder of how together the world continues to progress without kiwi representation.
After a shaky start from both sides the Silver Ferns stayed in touch only a point behind the visitors at halftime winning the second quarter 13 points to nine but it seemed they had shown their cards early while England moved into phase two of their attack.
Langman was soon shifted to centre from wing defence to penetrate through a strong England defensive line to sight shooters and to slow down former Northern Mystics teammate Serena Guthrie in the middle.
Shooting at 73 percent and with connections to goal struggling, Taurua courageously sent Maria Folau to the bench to reset minds in attack and to give England defenders something to think about.
It didn’t pull off with New Zealand only managing five goals in the final spell.
England were high on confidence coming into the match as favourites after their gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games but coach Tracey Neville says through her own experience knows exactly what Taurua is going through when she inherited the England netball team in 2015.
“I’ve actually been in that position and its difficult when you’ve got new staff you’re not use to and players not use to how you like to work or the structure you like to play,” says Neville
“I never underestimate the Ferns and I think they have a lot more up their sleeve you’ve seen the great work that Noeline has done in the SSN and the culture she brings.”
In 2011 England players were told if they chose to play in the former ANZ Championship they would be ineligible for the world championships that year. After key players including star defender Geva Mentor ultimately picked the trans-Tasman competition a compromise was reached and England allowed them to play, they came third.
The trust in this process saw no English player based in Australia or New Zealand part of this Quad Series preparation and its these efforts that have seen the Roses sore to new heights.
Veteran shooter Joanne Harten believes while it was a rocky start her side are now reaping the rewards making Northern Hemisphere netball a force to reckoned with.
“We are used to the Australian style of play but we get confidence from our own English super league and our Roses progamme,” says Harten
“We love playing in the SSN and here in the ANZ but the core of this team is driven from an English perspective and we are playing the English way.”
“We are on the right road, we’ve got a home world cup so we are building the pressure for ourselves and that expectation to perform and we have the confidence in knowing we can get to a Comm Games final behind us.”
The Silver Ferns will take on the South African Proteas in Tauranga on Tuesday night in game two of the Netball Quad Series.