Ferns rotation policy gets results, adds depth
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu is taking positive learnings from her "refreshment policy" employed during the Quad Series.
Taumaunu always questioned herself as to whether giving second-stringers a chance during the competition was the right thing to do, but she felt the rewards came in Thursday night's impressive victory over the Australian Diamonds, when some fresh charges were able to do the business in a game they always targeted.
The coach is now very mindful of the adage that less is more, particularly in terms of training, as the Ferns eye the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 world championships.
When the team was in New Zealand, Taumaunu ran just one training a day rather than her preference for two.
"But the focus was to see how people travelled over this period of time with a little bit less on court time and perhaps a little bit more time looking at analysing the opposition," she said. "I think the learnings going forward will be around freshness is important, it's as important as practice."
Despite the strong performance from the Ferns in their final hit-out of the year, Taumaunu still had concerns.
"I'm not that thrilled about our through-court defence, I have to say. That's always been a strength and it hasn't really been through this Quad Series. We've tried some new things and I don't know that they've been entirely successful, so we'll have to look at those again. I think they have potential to be successful but we didn't execute them very well."
But Taumaunu acknowledged that finishing on that winning note showed progress.
"I thought there were areas that we had shown some improvement in the Constellation Cup and clearly the last game of the Constellation Cup and the [Quad Series] one in Sydney, one had to question whether that progress was real. So to come out and do that against an Australian team that, having watched over their last two matches I felt was really starting to find some form, I'm pretty pleased about."
Another key for the Ferns had been about having fun, enjoying the challenge of Australia and not being afraid of it.
The experience garnered against the world champions is invaluable. Camilla Lees in particular was able to take away plenty after having not played the Diamonds before this year and now having had four cracks at them.
The midcourt was always going to be a challenge following the loss of several players, but Taumaunu feels there's a little more depth now.
"And we do have a couple of players [Courtney Tairi and Grace Rasmussen] within the squad who are injured who I'm expecting to be back and fully fit by the end of next year," she said.
The Ferns now look ahead to the Fast5 tournament which runs next Friday to Sunday in Auckland.
Thursday night's player of the match, Leana de Bruin, said she was feeling "amazingly good" going into that competition.
"I think Fast5 is real refreshing because it's new and new rules and it's a bit of fun," she said.
"I think the pressure's not so much so you can just go out there."
Taumaunu agreed about the fun aspect and confessed that none of them really knows the rules.
"It's going to be interesting. I've had some thoughts, I've got two assistant coaches [Debbie Fuller and Natalie Avellino] for that, thank goodness. I think the centre pass-off's going to be quite hard, I think it's going to be quite a big workload on the goal defenders.
"I'm kind of feeling very fortunate that we've got the likes of Maria [Tutaia] who can probably throw up those two and three pointers. And I think we're going to see Anna Harrison back in the circle with a few hoists to stop other people doing the same."