Ferns changes likely after series win
for final match
With the series already sown up and history achieved, the Silver Ferns can now experiment.
Last night's tense 50-49 victory over Australia in Auckland, which broke an eight-year series drought and alleviated all pressure from Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu.
Shuffling her deck is now on the cards.
The right noises will be made, but the result of Sunday's dead-rubber in Christchurch will be a secondary concern. Any victory over Australia is valued, but Taumaunu has the upper hand and, therefore, the luxury of considering the big picture.
"This is a very good Australia team," Taumaunu said. "We've had two wins, but by one and two goals, so we're not going to suddenly throw the baby out with the bath water, but we'll certainly see if we can make some changes and give people the experience they need in this atmosphere, but also do it in a way that's helpful to their long-term development. It won't be wholesale changes."
Basically, the final test against the world champions will be viewed as a chance to trial other players and combinations from the Ferns' 12-strong squad, starting at the shooting end.
Maria Tutaia, the star of last night's gripping win, and the evergreen Irene van Dyk have been in superb touch - and appear destined for a break.
Jodi Brown last appeared for the Ferns five years ago, but the 31-year-old veteran seems set for a start at goal attack. Brown could be paired with Mystics sharp shooter Cathrine Latu, who will play just her fourth test for New Zealand after 30 caps for Samoa.
The Ferns have been experimenting with that combination at training this week and Taumaunu is keen to see how they react under pressure.
In Joline Henry's absence, Anna Harrison has been a revelation at wing defence. The lanky defender's long limbs were difficult to combat in the first two tests, but she also could be spelled, with Kayla Cullen likely to be given time in the midcourt role.
"The lines we've been practising have been Jodi at goal attack and Cat at goal shoot and Kayla in the defensive line. Those are the general changes," Taumaunu explained her thinking for the final test.
That just leaves rookie Bailey Mes.
Don't count on seeing her thrust into action unless the Ferns are well and truly comfortable.
It is clear now Taumaunu picked Mes with an eye to the future. The coach wanted to gauge her progress in the national set-up and would prefer she has a softer introduction to the international arena against the likes of England and South Africa in the upcoming Quad series, rather than harm her confidence against the intensity of Australia.
"Probably not," Taumaunu said when asked if Mes would play on Sunday.
"She's come on well in our practice matches, but I'd like to give her an experience that's enjoyable and good for her long-term development.
"It may not be one of those at the moment."
Ferns captain Casey Williams is also likely to return from a problematic knee injury in Christchurch.
"I'm very hopeful," Taumaunu said.
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