Silver Ferns begin new era with commanding win

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Jan 2020, 10:55AM
Phoenix Karaka in the Silver Ferns victorious match. (Photo / Getty)

Silver Ferns begin new era with commanding win

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 20 Jan 2020, 10:55AM

It wasn't always fluent or free-flowing but the next wave of Silver Ferns began their new era on a commanding note with the 64-48 victory over England sending a strong statement to their Netball Nations Cup rivals.

Thrashing England, albeit a heavily-weakened version, by the largest margin since 2017 at the sold out Nottingham Arena can only build the confidence of this relatively new world champion Silver Ferns squad.

The match itself, New Zealand's first of the decade, wasn't a great spectacle with frequent errors halting attacking movements but the Ferns can take heart from their tenacious dominance in almost every aspect. They constantly contested rebounds, tips, worked off the ball and their shooters performed strongly to finish with 93 per cent overall.

Maia Wilson, who netted 27/29, was a standout in this regard. The 21-year-old former national basketball representative grabbed her chance. She will now hope to transfer this composed and clinical effort through the remainder of the tournament in which the Ferns play Jamaica and South Africa before a likely final appearance in London on Monday (NZT).

In the first meeting between these two nations since the World Cup semifinal in Liverpool, both embraced a very different complexion.

The Ferns began the new era without retired veterans Maria Folau and Casey Kopua. Laura Langman and Katrina Rore also sit out this tournament.

England, too, were missing six players from their World Cup squad including influential shooters Helen Housby and Jo Harten, defender Geva Mentor and midcourt lynchpin Serena Guthrie.

The Ferns were dealt a blow before tip-off with defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson rupturing her Achilles during a training match and returning home. Sokolich-Beatson won't be replaced in the squad and now faces a nine-month recovery.

Noeline Taurua handed starting opportunities to defender Phoenix Karaka, shooter Wilson and Shannon Saunders at centre but also showed a willingness to regularly rotate her squad.

England coach Jess Thirlby, who has replaced Tracey Neville, surprised by benching the experienced Chelsea Pitman and Francesca Williams.

The Ferns started nervously but settled quickly to take the first quarter 15-11. Wilson impressed under the hoop by nailing 12/12 in the opening period and moving freely at times along the baseline. Her combination with newly-installed captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, a constant, calming presence, proved a highlight.

Karin Burger helped build pressure on the England midcourt with intercepts and tight marking but England shooter Kadeen Corbin was ultimately exposed as she missed three shots and committed several turnovers.

Taurua injected Whitney Souness at wing attack for Gina Crampton and Te Paea Selby-Rickit for Wilson in the second quarter. Souness struggled at times but with Corbin failing to net her goals the Ferns opened up an eight goal lead.

Only when George Fisher replaced Corbin did England make inroads to cut the lead to 28-25 at half time.

Taurua kept the changes coming in the second half by benching captain Ekenasio and pairing Bailey Mes with Wilson.

The Ferns defensive end of Jane Watson and Phoenix Karaka grew in confidence as the match progressed, forcing held balls by shutting down passing options.

By the last quarter the Ferns were in total control, enjoying a 10 goal lead, which allowed Taurua to again change her line-up by bringing back Selby-Rickit, Crampton and letting Kimiora Poi loose at centre to give her full squad game-time.

In the opening game, Jamaica defeated South Africa 59-54 after leading 33-28 at half time.