Leana looks to get physical

Last updated 00:00 04/11/2007
MARTIN HUNTER/Sunday Star-Times
NO PASSING: Silver Ferns defender Leana de Bruin is out to prove a point at the world championships.

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Australia's shooters better look out, Leana de Bruin has a point to prove at the world champs.

Leana De Bruin and Irene van Dyk have a lot in common. They are both South Africans who have come to call New Zealand home. They are both 1.90m tall and have tasted world championship and Commonwealth Games glory with the Silver Ferns. And they will both be doing their damnedest to help the Silver Ferns win back-to-back world titles for the first time at the Trusts Stadium in Waitakere from November 10-17.

But while van Dyk is the darling of New Zealand netball, de Bruin is more used to being dissed for her defensive frailties.

"I don't read a lot of newspapers but I know I am not one of the favourites," she says. "Everybody loves her (van Dyk) but I am just grateful to be in the team.

"I've just got to go out there and enjoy what I am doing and not stress about other people's opinions of me."

After the Silver Ferns' disappointing series loss to Australia in July there was some surprise when coach Ruth Aitken selected the same squad of 12 players for her world championship squad.

The make-up of the Ferns defence was highlighted as an area of real concern and Auckland Diamonds coach Sue Hawkins, a former Australian shooter, believes the Ferns defenders could struggle again if, as expected, they face Australia in the final.

"I honestly think that the only person who has got into the head of the Australian shooters (Catherine Cox and Sharelle McMahon) has been left out of your team. I think the Silver Ferns have made a big mistake not picking Anna Scarlett," said Hawkins.

"If Cox and McMahon get hassled and annoyed on court they get distracted and their games suffer. I just hope the girls that have been selected can distract them like Anna did."

The defenders that have been selected are de Bruin, Casey Williams, Sheryl Scanlan and Joline Henry, but one week out from the world championships it is still unclear who Aitken's preferred starting two are.

De Bruin admits that if they do come up against Australia in the final they will have their hands full.

"They have a great understanding (Cox and McMahon). They've been playing together for years and you can tell.

"They are super fast so we need to try to slow them down. We need to try to get in their running path and get in their space rather than trying to chase them."

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De Bruin roomed with the ultra- competitive McMahon when they played together as part of a world selection in 2001 and says she doesn't deserve her bad reputation in New Zealand.

"Everyone likes to hate her because she is such a phenomenal player. She is really a nice person but I don't think we'll be hanging around the swimming pool at the world championships."

That is not surprising given the history between the sides. There has been a marked increase in physicality in recent games between the trans-Tasman rivals and the Silver Ferns have played against a number of senior men's teams as part of their build-up.

"The game has become quite physical for a non-contact sport. Everyone is trying to make their mark. If you push me, I'll push you back. If you give it out, you'll get it back. We played against the men's teams and they were all saying, 'You guys are mean."'

De Bruin has played goal defence and goal keep in the Ferns' warm-up games and is happy to play wherever she is asked to.

"Wherever they need me I'll go. We have so many options in defence which is a real plus but as a player it is hard to know where you stand.

"But if you get out on court with somebody you've got to try to make it work."

Getting court time is something that has driven de Bruin since the last world championships in Jamaica where New Zealand scored that famous 49-47 win over Australia in the final.

"I didn't play in the world championship final in 2003 and that is a real inspiration for me - to be on court when the final whistle goes."

Another world championship win with the Silver Ferns would cap a remarkable few weeks for de Bruin with South Africa's win in the Rugby World Cup still fresh in her mind.

So if the Springboks had faced the All Blacks in the final who would she have been shouting for?

"I knew that question was coming. I'm a Kiwi but two mates I grew up with, the du Plessis brothers, play for the Springboks, and my family is friends with Francois Steyn's family.

"I don't have that connection with any of the All Blacks. But I've got a New Zealand passport so I'm in a win-win situation and I would have been happy either way."

She'll be even happier if the Silver Ferns can upset the recent form book and win another world title.

"We are the underdogs. I don't think a lot of people expect us to win and that is a good thing. But we've slogged it out since last November and we want to win really badly."


DE BRUIN FILE

Born: July 9, 1977
Height: 1.90m
Caps: NZ 26, South Africa 34
Court position: Goal-defence, goal-keep
Occupation: Student
Nickname: Vlooi (Afrikaans for flea) Floyd
Favourite Movie: The Passion
Favourite Food: Barbecue
Favourite TV programme: CSI
Silver Ferns squad 2002-2006
Silver Ferns debut: 2003
National Bank Cup: Sting 2001, Shakers 2002, Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 2003-04, Force 2005-06

- Sunday Star Times

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