Ferns to continue mix and match against Jamaica

CALLING THE SHOTS: Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.
CALLING THE SHOTS: Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.

New Zealand better end up winning the Commonwealth Games.

Yes, it's a big event (the second biggest in the world of netball) and the Silver Ferns are the defending champions, but the constant mention of it does tend to grate.

Some matches and tournaments are more important than others and not planning for those would be foolish. But for months now, the only relevant aspect of any match the Silver Ferns have played seems to be its proximity to July and the start of the Games in Glasgow.

Talk to anyone in the New Zealand camp and it won't be long until you hear that this latest game is significant because "it's the last time we'll play X until the Comm Games".

That's fine and there would be howls of outrage if, two years out, coach Waimarama Taumaunu started sending out the same seven players for every minute of every test and a few were suddenly found wanting in a Commonwealth Games final. It's only prudent to have Plans A, B, C and D in place and to have trialled them in competitive matches, especially given the regularity with which New Zealand-Australia finals have gone to extra time at major championships.

Equally, though, at some point the trial and, occasional, error needs to stop and New Zealand's best team has to spend time playing and winning together. Stand-in captain Laura Langman described it this week as the moment when they would "consolidate".

But that moment won't be tomorrow, when the Silver Ferns meet Jamaica at London's Wembley Arena.

Taumaunu said the fact that New Zealand hadn't played Jamaica since the last Commonwealth Games, and wouldn't do so again until the next, meant "we do need to get further experience of what the Jamaican team are like before we come back to Glasgow, so we need to get people on the court so they're able to understand that".

Which indicates a continuation of the chopping and changing that were features of the 72-18 and 63-26 exhibition games against Scotland earlier this week.

Aside from a desire to expose as many of her squad to Jamaica as possible, Taumaunu also said the Silver Ferns had been too predictable during their four successive losses to Australia late last year.

"One of the things we thought out of the Constellation Cup was that our centre pass wasn't accurate enough, so we've been working with quite some focus on variety on the centre pass, a variety of people in the centre pass and really clarifying what our go-to centre passes are with different lineups, hence the number of offensive lineups [against Scotland]," she said.

No matter who plays, and who's giving or receiving the ball from the centre pass, New Zealand should be too good for Jamaica tomorrow, and, what is a strong-looking England team, on Tuesday too.

It's the settled and superbly-drilled Australian side the Silver Ferns need to be worrying about, or perhaps taking a lead from.


New Zealand v Jamaica

Where and when: Wembley Arena, London and Sky Sport 2, 8.30am tomorrow

New Zealand (from): Leana de Bruin, Katrina Grant, Joline Henry, Laura Langman (c), Millie Lees, Maria Tutaia, Cathrine Latu, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Phoenix Karaka, Shannon Francois, Jodi Brown, Irene van Dyk

Jamaica(from): Malysha Kelly (c), Jhaniele Fowler, Thristina Harwood, Shanice Beckford, Khadihaj Williams, Paula Thompson, Vangelee Williams, Patricia McCalla, Sabrina Spence, Nadine Bryan, Sasha-Gay Lynch, Stacian Facey

Fairfax Media