All too rushed for Tall Ferns as goal shattered
It is tough times for Tall Fern Toni Edmondson, from Canterbury, as she goes through the anguish of an Olympic goal being shattered.
Edmondson, 25, may not get another opportunity to make a Games team after New Zealand was bounced out of the qualifying tournament in Turkey this week. Edmondson has done everything asked of her, but been poorly served by parent body Basketball New Zealand.
After the ill-fated Christchurch Sirens played just one season in the Australian Women's Basketball League in 2007-08 before being scuppered, Edmondson then found herself the unlucky last player cut before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
With no league locally she, along with several others, headed to Australia and has played for Dandenong, Bendigo and Adelaide in the league, attempting to carve a career and raise her game.
That she has done, but the Tall Ferns have been woefully treated by a cash-strapped national body in their quest to reach London this year.
All the good work gleaned from having the Sirens squad, which comprised many of the Tall Ferns who reached the quarterfinals (top eight) at Beijing, has been undone.
With a pitiful programme consisting of an occasional Asian tour, along with near-impossible Olympic and world qualifying series against world No2 Australia, there has been precious little court time for any dedicated Tall Fern.
The ultimate frustration came this week in Ankara, where the Tall Ferns, who still hold a respectable world ranking of 16, initially had the misfortune to be grouped in the toughest pool of four alongside two teams ranked above them, the Czech Republic (world No4) and Argentina (No12).
The top five teams from the 12-team tournament make London, a better ratio than the men's equivalent tournament next week in Venezuela, where only the top three get through, and the Tall Blacks have even less chance of making it.
Leading into the event the Ferns, on their shoestring budget, had a couple of worthy wins in China against Angola (No15) and China (No13), who are both going to London.
After a loss to the powerful Czech Republic, everything hinged on the match against Argentina. It could have gone either way but the Ferns lost by three, 54-51.
Who knows, with a decent diet of international matches in recent seasons like that of their rivals, could not the Ferns have glued together better combinations so that when the blowtorch was applied they did not crack?
Little wonder frustrated coach Kennedy Kereama, originally from Christchurch, but another who exported himself to Australia in search of a fulltime coaching career, could barely contain himself after the loss.
"There are a number of things in women's basketball that need to be reviewed, but it comes down to funding," he said from Ankara.
"The biggest difference between our programme and the other teams here is that their players are fulltime basketballers and the national team is their job.
"We're coming together to get our fix of international basketball over two weeks, sometimes a month like we've just had. We had to jam a lot of stuff into 12 heads over a couple of weeks. It would be nice to have a really robust selection process over a period of time ... [but] we're not in a position to do that right now."
What's more, little looks like changing, so the Ferns will continue to founder instead of flourish.
- © Fairfax NZ News