Outclassed Silver Ferns face big challenge

NATHAN BURDON IN GLASGOW
Last updated 09:01 04/08/2014
LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff.co.nz

The Silver ferns are beaten by the Australian netball team in the final on the last day of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Anna Harrison
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Anna Harrison walks from the court as the Australians celebrate victory.
Silver Ferns
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
OUTCLASSED: The Silver Ferns have a big challenge ahead of them after being dominated by Australia in the gold medal final at Glasgow.

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OPINION: Out-run and outgunned, the Silver Ferns have a massive challenge ahead of them if they are to regain any sort of parity with their trans-Tasman rivals.

With a history of close encounters at big tournaments, an 18-goal loss to Australia in the Commonwealth Games gold medal final is about as disastrous as it gets for New Zealand netball.

Skipper Casey Kopua described it as the toughest build up to a gold medal final she'd been involved in.

Injuries to Maria Tutaia (foot), Cathrine Latu (calf), Ellen Halpenny (ankle) and Joline Henry (finger) meant the first time coach Wai Taumaunu had her full squad available was the final.

Kopua alluded to other issues which had gone on behind the scenes, but wouldn't go into details.

''I still think we showed a lot of pride, a lot of heart out on the court. We still made our country very proud, but our expectations were to win gold and nothing else. It's an emotional feeling when you don't get what you want,'' Kopua said.

''Everybody sets high expectations, we were only coming here for one colour and we are emotional girls - I guess when you don't get what you are aiming for, you've been working hard for three or four years...''

The obvious truth is that New Zealand has to be at its best to have a chance against a well-prepared Australian team that possesses not just an impressive starting line up, but also no shortage of talent on the bench.

Any team that can leave Erin Bell at home is travelling nicely.

In contrast, New Zealand could get only one team into the trans-Tasman finals, despite the way the competition is rigged towards equal participation, and the Silver Ferns, a couple of positions aside, picked themselves.

The Silver Ferns, who take on Australia over four tests in October, are increasingly relying on ageing legs, without a wave of young talent pushing through to challenge for positions.

Shooting was a weakness for New Zealand in Glasgow. For the first time in a long time there was no Irene van Dyk. Injuries robbed the team of the chance to really hit their lines on attack at the Commonwealth Games.

The midcourt was not able to work the ball into shooters in good position, and the shooters struggled to cope with the added pressure.

A very fit, very fast Australian midcourt was able to deliver sterling service to Caitlin Bassett, who lobbed in short and mid range shots with little difficulty.

The Silver Ferns defence is good enough to create turnover opportunities, but that's where the problems start, rather than end.

''Certainly, down that end, when we do get the ball we need to score it because obviously when you lose the ball and you've got someone like Caitlin Bassett at the other end, it's very hard to get back,'' Kopua said.

''We'll move forward from it. The sun is still going to shine tomorrow and life will still go on. It's not over and we are still looking forward to Sydney next year in 2015, which is still part of our buildup.''

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