Canterbury Tactix's Melbourne learning trip

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013

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Anna Thompson gets her first chance to show off her leadership skills at this weekend's eight team, trans-Tasman pre-season netball tournament in Melbourne.

The 26-year-old Silver Fern was this week named as Tactix captain. She has sizeable shoes to fill.

Thompson takes over from the now retired Maree Bowden.

The side has finished last in the competition three years in a row and Thompson will be charged with motivating, inspiring and leading her side to at least better that.

"We picked her because of that experience factor," coach Leigh Gibbs said of the Tactix' last remaining foundation member. "She's a Silver Fern, she's a great trainer and she leads by example."

She also has the side's support; the position was, in part, selected by a team vote of which Thompson comfortably came out on top.

"She was one of our leaders last year and did a great job," import Jo Harten said. "She's a really hard worker on and off the court and I think she'll be a great captain."

Gibbs is hoping to use the five 40-minute matches today and tomorrow to put into place a hoard of training court ideas and combinations.

She said the goal of the tournament was to learn as much as possible about her side, their strengths, limitations and links under match conditions.

With a host of new players on board, and two experienced players - Julianna Naoupu and Bessie Manu - not travelling as they recover from injuries, this weekend would be the perfect chance for Gibbs and her management team to assess how their side's preparation was going.

Gibbs was loath to compare this year's side to last year's or to make predictions but she did say there had been an increased importance placed on fitness and speed work.

The former Silver Ferns coach turned down an opportunity to hype her side up this year, instead going the other way when asked if she thought she had the team to end the franchise's woeful wooden-spoon run.

"I don't know," she said.

"We'll have to wait and see. We'll know more after this weekend but I will tell you we've been working very hard."

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