Progress by Ferns pleases coach
Waimarama Taumaunu has defended the rest-and-rotation policy she employed in the recently completed Quad Series.
After suffering a humiliating 20-goal loss to the Australian Diamonds first up, the Silver Ferns finished on a high to close out the series with a thrilling 48-43 win over their trans-Tasman rivals in the final match.
Taumaunu copped plenty of flak for using her "refreshment" (as she prefers to call it) policy of using second-string players in order to rest key ones.
It was a move aimed at not only resting players, but helping develop players heading towards the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 World Championships.
Taumaunu appeared unfazed by the criticism and explained her reasons for benching kingpins Irene Van Dyk and Casey Williams in the biggest loss to Australia for a decade when in New Plymouth last weekend.
"We were playing six games in two weeks, so it was important to keep people fresh for that last game [against Australia].
"Keeping them fresh is as important as practice."
Taumaunu's tactic had a big bearing on the Ferns coming through the testing Quad series without injury.
"There's always wear and tear after games, but I think we've come through okay."
The Silver Ferns complete their programme this year playing the three-day Fast5 five-a-side format in Auckland this weekend.
Taumaunu said there was now greater depth in the squad.
At the start of the season, management had pinpointed the mid-court as an area of concern.
"I think we were lucky to get through with the inexperienced mid-court that we had and very fortunate Millie [Lees] stood up and Kayla [Cullen] too. We found someone with the potential that could go in there.
"By the end of the series, I felt the mid-court was holding itself up against Australia and that was pretty pleasing."
Based in Wellington and assistant coach of the Silver Ferns from 2008 to 2011, Taumaunu took over as head coach from her predecessor Ruth Atkins a year ago.
She said she now feels comfortable in the top job.
"I was called in suddenly last year when Ruth had to withdraw for family reasons and I think I got just a week's notice before the start of the Constellation Cup series," Taumaunu said.
"I'm much more settled this year. We've had plenty of time to plan and think about what we needed to do and I had the whole of the ANZ Cup to look at the available players from the perspective of head coach rather than the assistant."
There have been a lot of changes to the game since Taumaunu retired after being part of the team for a decade from 1981 and captain for the last three years.
"The players are taller now. They play the game a lot differently than when I was playing.
"So for a number of reasons, they have needed to bring a more physical approach to the match.
"I think one of the things that has happened in netball is that there is a lot more advantage play now. That has meant defenders can be more physical. They are allowed to play the ball and attack the ball and when they are going for the ball, they tend to do things that we were not allowed to do.
"The game was very stop-start and ruled much more pedantically than is the case now."
Van Dyk and Leana De Bruin will be 42 and 37 respectively when the Commonwealth Games and World Championships roll round.
Asked if the South Africans would still be apart of the squad for those major events, Taumaunu said it was certainly their intent.
"And I've learned never to underestimate them when they decide to do something. I don't think it will be easy for them, but they are very determined women."
Netball in Taranaki was alive and well and doing a fine job in developing young talent, according to the Ferns head coach.
"The zone restructure that Netball NZ is implementing right now, I think is a step in the right direction.
"I think Taranaki has always had a reputation of producing some of our best young netballers. Adine Harper and Daneka Wipiiti are two names that spring very quickly to mind.
"The age group teams here have always been incredibly strong and the region has bred some of our best senior and age group representatives over a long period."
Taumaunu ranks England the third best international team.
"But I didn't think it was a particularly strong England team we had here [this season]," she said.
"They played a very good half game against us in Wellington and it probably was the best netball they played, but they didn't recapture that form for the remainder of the tour."
Taranaki Daily News