LISTEN ABOVE AS LAURA LANGMAN SPEAKS TO D'ARCY AND GORAN
Kiwi netball legends Casey Kopua and Laura Langman will officially make their Silver Ferns return after being named in the 2018-19 squad.
Netball New Zealand announced the pair's return to the black dress at today's team naming in Auckland, where they also announced the team to compete in next month's Quad Series.
The return of veterans Langman and Kopua bring the combined experience of 242 Test caps.
Kopua signalled her intention to return to the Ferns last month when longtime mentor Noeline Taurua was identified as a likely candidate to take over as head coach. But the former skipper had remained very quiet on her potential return until today.
Kopua played her last test for the Ferns in 2015 before giving birth to her daughter and retiring from international netball 2016. But the top defender returned to the court a year later to play and captain the Magic in the ANZ Premiership.
Meanwhile, Langman's selection was of particular interest after the star midcourter was barred from playing for the Silver Ferns last year when she joined Taurua's Sunshine Coast Lightning.
The decision to exclude Langman, who played the last of her 141 tests in 2016, was heavily criticised after the Ferns' disappointing international season ahead of April's Commonwealth Games.
Justifying her return, Langman will likely sign with a New Zealand domestic side for the 2019 Premiership and is understood to be working through her options.
Netball NZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie said Netball NZ were excited to have the pair back in the squad and believed their international experience would add value to the team.
"Casey's always been clear that she's still wanting to be in the mix in some way shape or form and she made herself available and we're really excited to have someone with that level of experience in that environment," Wyllie said.
"For Laura, it was about having a break from netball and she's been really clear that she needed some time out to try some new things and she's quite refreshed now which is fantastic and so the time is right for her."
Kopua and Langman's inclusion in the squad almost certainly confirms Taurua's appointment as head coach with the Lightning's finals push in the Super Netball competition understood to be the reason for the delay.
The squad also features three debutants: Karin Burger, Elisapeta Toeava and Aliyah Dunn. Both Burger and Dunn featured strongly in the ANZ Premiership Grand Final and have had standout seasons for the Pulse, while dynamic wing Toeava added flair, speed and sublime ball skills up front for the Mystics.
Dunn, who was the top Kiwi shooter in the Premiership with a 91 per cent accuracy rate, said she didn't expect to get the call so soon into her netball career.
"I thought maybe a few years from now but not right now so it's pretty cool," Dunn said.
"I'm really excited, I just want to learn as much as I can from all the other players."
Tactix captain Jane Watson will also make a return to the black dress after being first selected for the Ferns in 2016 as a late call-up.
The defender's combination with Temalisi Fakahokotau was a standout in the 2018 season as the pair earned the reputation of the country's top defence unit.
The Silver Ferns will face Commonwealth Games gold medallists England Roses on September 15 at Auckland's Spark Arena in their first match of the Quad Series.
2018/19 SILVER FERNS SQUAD
Karin Burger – Central Pulse
Gina Crampton – Southern Steel
Aliyah Dunn – Central Pulse
Ameliaranne Ekenasio – Central Pulse
Temalisi Fakahokotau – Mainland Tactix
Maria Folau – Northern Mystics
Katrina Grant – Central Pulse
Kelly Jury – Waikato-BOP Magic
Casey Kopua – Waikato-BOP Magic
Laura Langman - Unattached
Bailey Mes – Northern Mystics
Te Paea Selby-Rickit – Southern Steel
Sam Sinclair – Waikato-BOP Magic
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson – Northern Mystics
Elisapeta Toeava – Northern Mystics
Jane Watson – Mainland Tactix
Maia Wilson – Northern Stars
SILVER FERNS TEAM – NETBALL QUAD SERIES
Te Paea Selby-Rickit