Pressure on Silver Ferns midcourt positions

Last updated 05:00 17/08/2012
Laura Langman
KIWI STALWART: Laura Langman in action.

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No Joline Henry, no Temepara George and no Liana Leota means a paucity of experience in this year's Silver Ferns midcourt.

Laura Langman, with 80 consecutive caps, will still be there but this week's national trials in Auckland have basically been one long midcourt audition.

Three of the four shooters who will end up in New Zealand's 12-strong squad, named on Monday, pick themselves, while Casey Williams, Leana de Bruin, Anna Harrison and Katrina Grant seem certain to be the four defenders.

Aside from the last shooter, that leaves a midcourt to be found.

But if Langman has any clues about who is going to take the court around her, she is not saying.

"We've got a host of players to select from and it's been really competitive, so your guess is probably as good as mine," Langman said yesterday.

So let the guessing games begin. Twenty-five players are at the trials, 13 under the moniker of "current Silver Ferns squad member".

Of those, Central Pulse shooter Paula Griffin could struggle to make the final 12 and the only question for the selectors then is around how they plan to deploy Grace Rasmussen and Anna Thompson. Both are wing attacks who can shoot and it might be that having them both in the squad means not having to include an additional shooter like Julianna Naoupu.

Neither Rasmussen nor the Pulse's Camilla Lees, another in that 13, would look out of place starting a test at wing attack, with Langman enthusiastic about Lees.

"She's really grown this season and I'm looking forward to establishing a good combination with her," Langman said.

Kayla Cullen seems destined to inherit Henry's wing defence bib so, when all's said and done, there's every chance the trials will not yield a bolter from outside the established group.

If there are to be any, then the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic pair of Naoupu and Elias Shadrock have the strongest claims.

Of the three midcourt absentees, only George has retired. Henry is expecting her first child and Leota has just had her second but both are likely to return to the international fold in time for events like the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the world championships the following year. But for now, the absence of the trio does mean New Zealand will field a raw midcourt in next month's three-test Constellation Cup series against Australia and then in the Quad Series, when England and South Africa join the fray.

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Langman, though, believes franchise netball has helped ensure the step up to the test-match stage isn't as great as it once was.

"Obviously the key thing with them [George, Henry and Leota] is they've been around a lot and gained a lot of experience. But the benefit of the ANZ [Championship] is that you get exposed to the best of the Australians through that, so it's not such a fright," she said.

Whoever joined Langman in midcourt would quickly be told they were not there to make up the numbers or develop, she added.

"Any opportunity you get on the international stage, you're going in there to make a statement - and to win."

- The Press

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