The Silver Ferns shooting end under scrutiny

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014
PLENTY TO PONDER: Silver Ferns assistant coach Vicki Wilson, left, head coach Waimarama Taumaunu and performance analyst Bobby Wilcox have work to do.
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PLENTY TO PONDER: Silver Ferns assistant coach Vicki Wilson, left, head coach Waimarama Taumaunu and performance analyst Bobby Wilcox have work to do.

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Vicki Wilson had a ready-made excuse and didn't use it.

The Silver Ferns assistant coach's area of expertise is shooting. Sadly that's also the team's greatest weakness and has been since Wilson joined the coaching staff last year.

That was never more evident than during this month's Commonwealth Games netball final, in which the Silver Ferns were on the end of a 58-40 drubbing from Australia.

There were extenuating circumstances though, with Maria Tutaia nursing a plantar fascia injury, Cathrine Latu a calf problem and Jodi Brown worn down by the burden of carrying her fellow shooters.

If ever a netball coach had an opportunity to claim luck was against the team or that the result can't be taken at face value, then this was it. But Wilson, back in her Brisbane base having stayed in Europe after the Games, wasn't having a bar of that.

''No, you can't brush it off. You have to learn from it and that hurts, without a doubt,'' Wilson said.

''It wasn't just a loss, but a huge loss and, yes, we acknowledge that we had some injuries in that shooting end but, even so, it hurts your pride and it's going to hurt for a long, long time.

''I know how hurt the team were but I know how devastated the shooters were, about so many aspects of the fact they weren't at their best and just knowing how crucial their role is in the success of the team.

''It doesn't matter how much ball you get, if you don't slot the goal you're not going to win.

''That's the reality and that hurts and that's why you just can't brush aside a result like that.''

Which is where Wilson needs to come in.

The Australian was one of the most feared shooters of her own playing era, but questions persist about what she's contributing to New Zealand's cause.

Increased shooting loads and more comprehensive data were features of her introduction to the fold. Wilson maintains that gains are being made on the practice court, although they are yet to be seen where it counts.

She's not promising a sudden change to that pattern in October's tests against Australia and England, but is hopeful they could occur in time for next August's World Cup. That optimism is based on what Wilson believes Latu will be capable of.

Latu ''went in as our No 1 goaler and she shouldered a huge responsibility prior to us starting the Games,'' Wilson said.

But with Latu injured for the bulk of the tournament all of the Silver Ferns' best-laid plans went out the window.

''Cathrine offers that high game and the ability to draw the defensive unit back. Once we lost her we were forced into those long shots because we didn't have anyone to draw the opposition back.

''We got ourselves in a spot of bother by taking those longer shots, which aren't your high-per centage shots.''

Latu, Wilson said, is also the only Silver Ferns shooter with an ability to rebound. Australia got several second chances by out-rebounding New Zealand in Glasgow and Wilson has identified that as another area needing improvement.

The shooting end will receive plenty of scrutiny at the upcoming national trials. Wilson clearly believes in Latu and also heaped praise on Brown's effort at the Commonwealth Games.

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But she said Tutaia had work to do and you'd have to suspect Ellen Halpenny's spot is under threat from Bailey Mes and even newcomer Ameliaranne Wells.

- The Dominion Post

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