Coach sets modest target for NZ's FastNet lineup

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2010

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Netball

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The New Zealand netball team are keeping their goals surprisingly low for the World Netball Series FastNet tournament in Liverpool which begins tomorrow morning (NZ time).

Despite winning the only other international tournament played – in Manchester last year – and being the Commonwealth Games gold medallists, winning the six-team tournament is a long way from coach Robyn Broughton's mind. For now.

Her goal is a simple one but not one that would get the fans excited or the opposition quaking.

"We just want to make the top four, to start," Broughton said.

Her side would need to win only two of their five games to achieve that modest aim and against Malawi and South Africa, New Zealand should coast.

"From there, we'll see what happens, but we're just taking it one step at a time."

Australia are light on stars but rich in talent from their wider national squad and have more depth than New Zealand.

Jamaica are only without star shooter Romelda Aiken, but her absence downgrades Connie Francis' side from a one-trick pony with a little bite to a toothless nag with none.

England should go into the three-day tournament as favourites, and have the bulk of their Commonwealth Games side which pushed both the Silver Ferns and the Australian Diamonds in Delhi.

It is also likely to be a last hurrah for star defender Sonia Mkoloma before her exile for playing in the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship.

Broughton has a young side with her in Liverpool and Netball New Zealand's obvious goal is development.

Auckland school pupil Kayla Cullen is one of eight players 22 years old or younger in the squad of 11.

Defending their title might be a tad ambitious, but it's not impossible, Broughton said, and they do have a smattering of experience.

In captain Maree Bowden and Canterbury team-mates Charlotte Kight and Anna Thompson, as well as Grace Rasmussen and Camilla Lees, the New Zealand side have players who have spent time with Ruth Aitken and her Silver Ferns.

That said, there are only 24 international caps between them and Bowden has 15 of them. Thompson is the only player with FastNet experience, having played in two of last year's games.

Broughton said while FastNet was meant to be the fun version of netball, her side were still taking the tournament seriously.

"While I would have liked to have been together a lot longer, the girls have come together really well. They've got a lot of heart."

NZ GAMES

Live on Sky Sport:

TOMORROW
v Australia, 4.11am (NZ time) v Malawi, 7.37am v South Africa, 9.50am v England, 11.07pm

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SUNDAY
v Jamaica, 4.22amMONDAYSemifinals, 2.07am and 2.52am Final, 5.05am

- The Press

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