Refreshed Silver Ferns aim to catch on fast
The Fast5 Ferns have taken a gamble by assembling just two days before the World Series begins in Auckland tomorrow, and it's one coach Wai Taumaunu admits could come back to bite them.
The 10-strong squad came together yesterday afternoon for their first training session, leaving themselves just a day and half before they start their campaign against Jamaica tomorrow evening.
Only Anna Thompson and Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit, who has replaced the injured Casey Williams, have not been firm fixtures in the Silver Ferns team for the Constellation Cup and Quad Series and as such, Taumaunu said her players needed a break.
"We deliberately assembled a little bit later than everyone else so we could have some down time at home, so we're pretty fresh.
"Because it's new the Silver Ferns really wanted to be a part of it - Casey [Williams] was dying to be here.
"It was always a risk [taking a break] but the opposite side was that we turned up and were too tired and not fresh enough to go. It might be something that comes back to bite us but certainly a lack of enthusiasm is not an issue at the moment."
The excitement of being part of the inaugural Fast5 squad is not lost on the players, with Kayla Cullen admitting the new format was a welcome change.
"It's really refreshing, I love it. We've been out on court and tested it out and it is fricken hard. I didn't expect it to be this hard.
"It's a bit different and we're all really excited to play something different from regular netball."
The rangy 1.83m Cullen is ideally suited to the quicker game, and her ability to move between every position is a major plus for Taumaunu.
Despite this, Cullen admits she is a tad disappointed the early training indications have her "running her butt off in centre" and not slotting three-pointers.
Cullen was tested at centre during the recent Quad Series, after starting her career in the shooting circle then moving into defence.
The Aucklander has had to learn quickly and losing her wing attack and wing defence hasn't made things easier.
"It makes it so much harder to get the centre pass off without the wing attack and wing defence. I mean in training I just felt like I was passing to nobody.
"The defenders are so tight on it gives us less options but I'm sure we'll find a way around it."
Despite the limited preparation time, Cullen is confident the Ferns have enough know-how to transition seamlessly.
"We're all pretty fast learners. It's pretty much the same as normal netball, just less players and a lot faster. I'm sure we'll get the hang of it."
With a long test season winding down and a holiday in sight, the Ferns may be forgiven for slacking off a bit. But Cullen said there is only one goal heading into the three-day tournament, and that's to win the lot.
"We definitely want to take it out. It's in our home country and we want to get New Zealand involved and show them what we're capable of."
The tournament begins at 5pm with Jamaica to play South Africa, while the Ferns are in action from 6pm. All games will be played at Vector Arena with playoffs and finals set for Sunday.
The Southland Times