Silver Ferns door remains Wai open for players
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu is leaving the door open for new blood at the Commonwealth Games.
With no time for trials this year, players instead have the chance to force their way in on the back of a strong showing in the trans-Tasman league.
While reputation will still count for plenty, Taumaunu is not going to shy away from making some big calls when she names her squad of 12 in early June.
Fringe players are "absolutely" playing for Glasgow places, with Taumaunu not going to opt for experience for the sake of it.
"No, I don't think that is a given. It will be on form from the ANZ," she said.
"It wouldn't be a team full of fringe players, obviously. But that opportunity's certainly there."
Teams can only take 12 players into the Games village so the other names Taumaunu announces will be non-travelling reserves. She would rather wait till after the playoffs, but with countries required to submit names earlier, Taumaunu will do so after the last round of the regular season, so as to minimise disruption to the franchises. Australia have opted to name theirs on April 15.
Taumaunu has also been working in closely with the franchises in running three-weekly Ferns cluster trainings for her group of 18. When some of the incumbents had been struck down by injury, the budget extended to be able to invite some of the Accelerant squad of eight too, with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic's Ellen Halpenny and Grace Rasmussen attending the last one and having particularly caught Taumaunu's eye.
That will heap the pressure on the likes of Jodi Brown, Camilla Lees and Shannon Francois.
Asked if anyone was really knocking on the selection door, Taumaunu carefully answered "no-one that's not been in the programme at some stage", but did produce a name from left-field.
"I thought in her performance against [the West Coast Fever's] [Caitlin] Bassett, [the Southern Steel's] Erena Mikaere had a good game. But one-offs are not sufficient, so we'll just keep an eye on her over the next little while."
Taumaunu noted it was early days and that she will wait to see trends emerge during the competition.
"I don't imagine there would be too many of the Silver Ferns squad players thinking they've had four great games," she said. "But I think we're building and we're heading in the right direction, and that's all I can really ask for at this early stage.
"In general, the people that that we think are performing are either in the Silver Ferns squad or in the Accelerant group, so I guess you'd have to be reasonably comfortable that our selections were relatively correct. Some of the youngsters have some moments, particularly from the under-21s last year, but they've got a little way to go I think, a couple of them."
Taumaunu's netball viewing is a big job, attending as many live matches as she can and watching the rest via record, all the time scribbling notes, about both her players and those from other nations. Assistant coach Vicki Wilson and the selectorsmeet regularly to compare thoughts.
This round Taumaunu goes on a rare overseas jaunt, to Sydney, for the NSW Swifts' clash with the Central Pulse, which was one she selected early in the year because of the numerous Australia versus New Zealand player match-ups.
The last round was a pretty pleasing one for Taumaunu, with Kiwi teams beating the Aussies in all three clashes.
She was particularly impressed with how the Steel "showed some composure that they haven't always shown" in managing the last few minutes of their win over the Fever, and similarly the Magic in their staving off of a Vixens fightback and being able to silence the crowd.
While she didn't pick the Mainland Tactix to upset the Pulse, she felt they showed a lot of heart, and things got rosier with another upset when the Northern Mystics downed the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
"I might have picked it, but I think that might have been optimism and good wishes rather than clear-headedness. So I was delighted with the result," she said.
This weekend the New Zealand players have a chance to further stamp their mark, with all five games being trans-Tasman contests.