Netball coach Janine Southby produced two master strokes that led to her rookie Silver Ferns team winning the Quad Series in Invercargill at Australia’s expense on Sunday.
One was matching 1.92m goal keep Kelly Jury against 1.93m Diamonds goal shoot Caitlin Bassett to counter the Aussie sharpshooter’s usual height advantage. The other was switching the bibs of her own shooters to allow the more mobile Bailey Mes to play goal attack.
Jury’s response was a MVP performance that saw Bassett side-lined in the third quarter before the Ferns clinched an emphatic 57-47 victory.
Having suffered a rare loss to England earlier, there was immense pressure placed on the Ferns to respond. And they did through a combination of pace and accuracy on attack and some sharp defence right through the court.
Kudos, too, for tireless centre Shannon Francois and wing attack Gina Crampton for their slick service to shooters Mes and the cool-headed Te Paea Selby-Rickit, who used her height to good effect.
Jury, captain Katrina Grant and Samatha Sinclair excelled on defence to preserve the home team’s early advantage as the Diamonds struggled to penetrate the zone defence.
To achieve such a fine win without the experience of brilliant Maria Tutaia, Laura Langman, Kayla Cullen and Jane Watson said much for the selection and planning of coach Southby.
For Jury, Sinclair and Crampton this was their first start against Australia. As Silver Fern internationals, Crampton, Selby-Rickit, Watson and Maia Wilson are just in their second year.
Having built depth, the future appears bright, especially looking forward to next year’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast where Tutaia, Langman, Cullen and Watson will hope to make a contribution.
When champion goal attack Tutaia returns, it will be interesting to see if Southby promotes the towering Selby-Rickit to the starting goal shoot ahead of the more agile Mes. All three have much to commend them.
In the meantime the Ferns will be eager to avenge their loss to England in the three-test Taini Jamison series starting in Porirua on Thursday night.
Then they can expect a fierce Australian response in next month’s four-test Constellation Cup series.
Meanwhile, it was pleasing to see captain Chris Wood lead from the front in the All Whites comprehensive 6-1 football win against the Solomon Islands before more than 10,000 fans at QBE.
All three of the rangy Wood’s goals confirmed his class, with Kosta Barbarousis and Michael McGlinchey notching the others against a side possessing individual flair and pace but little team work.
Coming off the reserve bench to make his debut would have been a big moment for promising 20-year-old striker Myer Bevan who looks to have a bright future.
Nine losses on the trot has completed another sad NRL season for a Warriors team that has not learned the lessons of past failures. No wonder owner Eric Watson is ready to sell them at the right price.
Having turned down Paul Davys’ $15 million offer, it would seem he wants more than they are worth on current and past form.
High hopes following the acquisition of Kevin Foran, Issac Luke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and coach Stephen Kearney has not reaped the reward loyal fans deserve.
Tuivasa-Sheck remains a genuine talent. But making him captain was a burden rather than a reward.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author