National team seeks talent for series with Australia, Aaron Goile reports.
It all depends on how the Silver Ferns selectors choose to balance their squad, but there's the very real possibility that Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic players could make up half of the 12.
On Monday the squad for the three-test series against Australia will be announced, and it could well include two potential debutantes in the Magic's Julianna Naoupu and Elias Shadrock, meaning all of the Magic's regular starting seven - bar Aussie Khao Watts - would be in there.
Both Naoupu and Shadrock had superb campaigns in the Magic's ANZ Championship title win this season and have had the chance to further their claims at the four-day trial in Auckland which involved 25 eager players.
With an oddity of only 12 to be named for next month's Constellation Cup series, Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu and her fellow selectors, Jo Morrison, Raewyn Henry, Margaret Forsyth and Gael Nagaiya, will have had a tough job nutting out just how they want to balance their squad.
Do they go with four shooters, four midcourters and four defenders, or take an extra midcourter as there's three spots to cover there?
Does an experienced defender get the flick in favour of a younger shooter?
Well, the defensive quartet of Casey Williams, Anna Harrison, Katrina Grant and Leana de Bruin are too good to leave out.
At the shooting end Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia will be the go-to combination, while the accurate Cathrine Latu should be there too, with Naoupu, a current Silver Ferns squad member, a good option to cover goal attack after numerous impressive displays throughout the season.
That leaves the midcourt, where Laura Langman's a certainty and may be used at wing attack as well as centre.
The Central Pulse's Camilla Lees could be the other wing attack/centre option while fellow squad member Kayla Cullen, used mostly by the Northern Mystics at goal defence, could have wing defence as her main priority.
Shadrock could force her way in as the preferred wing defence, and having done well alongside Langman could have aided her cause. She is also adept at centre.
If Shadrock was to make the grade she would be the only player out of that lot to be selected from outside the current squad. The only other players who may force their way in would be the Canterbury Tactix's Anna Thompson and the Mystics' Grace Rasmussen.
Both are in the current national squad and could be considered as wing attack options but neither have been too impressive in recent times.
Naoupu's shooting at the trial was inconsistent and she was disappointed she could not finish off some good work she did around the court, as she got back into match mode after that brilliant day in Melbourne.
"For us, three weeks after the final, it's quite hard to just get back into the whole routine thing and the bodies are taking a toll," she said.
"Everyone's vying for a spot, everyone brought their A game."
Naoupu's impressive combination with van Dyk at the Magic may help her case for selection but the 22-year-old is not using that as a justification.
"Yeah, I hope so, but that's not something that I want to fall back on," she said.
"I want to be able to gain connections between all of them, that's important.
"If I can't gain connections with everybody else bar Irene, I mean, there's a red flag there."
While eager for a test debut, Naoupu said if it did not happen this time there was still time to prove herself ahead of the world championships in 2015.
"If it's this year it pretty much tops the cherry on my cake, but if I don't then I've still got two more years to prove myself."
Possible Silver Ferns squad: Irene van Dyk, Cathrine Latu, Maria Tutaia, Julianna Naoupu, Laura Langman, Camilla Lees, Kayla Cullen, Elias Shadrock, Casey Williams, Anna Harrison, Katrina Grant, Leana de Bruin.
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