Silver Ferns won't hold back against minnows

NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:44 24/07/2014
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff.co.nz

Silver Ferns netballer Casey Kopua talks about the upcoming pool match with Malawi in Glasgow.

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The Silver Ferns have settled into the athletes village in Glasgow ahead of their title defence at the Commonwealth Games.

The back-to-back gold medal winners were ''fit and healthy'' after a quality buildup in Bath where they played warmup games against Wales and England A, coach Wai Taumaunu said.

After training on the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre court that will be used up until the final of the netball today, Taumaunu said she no issues with the surface despite concerns about the court itself and a relatively low-hanging lighting rig which flirted with regulations.

''It's an international venue, we play in a lot of them with great variety of lighting and all sorts of floors. It is perhaps not the best we've played in, it's certainly not the worst and our style of game generally doesn't have balls that are going to go so high that they'd hit that ceiling.''

Whatever the state of the court this week, Taumaunu is happy with the state of midcourter Liana Leota, who has been working hard to rediscover her fitness after the birth of her third child.

''According to our data she is very close to being ready. I think really game time is the only thing that is going to test that, so we are ready to put her on the court and she has certainly spent the last week playing full games.''

Pool play, which starts with a game against Malawi on Friday night (NZ time), will be a balancing act for the Ferns as they try to retain their edge while making sure that the demands of playing five games in the space of six days isn't a factor heading into the sudden death matches.

New Zealand has never lost to Malawi, Scotland, Northern Ireland or St Lucia and should only be stretched when they come up against Jamaica in their final pool game.

''I wouldn't use the world experiment but certainly we'll be mindful of making sure that we spread the load,'' Taumaunu said.

New Zealand captain Casey Kopua said there was no question of holding back against the minnows.

''You never hold back, but certainly sharing that player load will be quite important so we all feel fresh coming towards the latter end of the competition. That's that time when we need to grow and see what we can do,'' she said.

''Those games are not easy, sometime they are harder than playing Australia because they are so unorthodox and you feel like you are headless chicken running around.''

Ferns vice-captain Laura Langman said memories of the team's win in Delhi four years ago only went so far.

''We certainly use it as inspiration, but obviously it's four years on now, different team, different units and different challenges that we've come across.''

This will be the first major tournament that New Zealand has arrived at since 2003 without talismanic goalshooter Irene van Dyk.

Taumaunu said Maria Tutaia was ready to lead a shooting end which includes Cathrine Latu, Jodi Brown and newcomer Ellen Halpenny

''I've been quite struck over the last two or three years, but in particular this year, by the maturity that Maria is displaying. They are getting older now and that is to be expected, and we've also got Ellen, who reminds us what young looks like.''

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