Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu admits to feeling sympathetic towards the Australian team who were crushed 3-0 by England in their tour there this month.
The Diamonds lost a series to the English for the first time, and although the Ferns were originally going to be next on the agenda for the northerners, Taumaunu scrapped the tour, instead preferring to work with her players at a 10-day camp in Auckland, which concluded yesterday.
There Taumaunu aimed to simulate what a lead-up to a "pinnacle event" feels like, rather than face the wrath of the English.
"I have a great deal of sympathy for the Australians," Taumaunu said of their series result, which she thought was great for the world game.
"It's not a nice place to be, it's a really difficult tour. I don't think people in New Zealand and Australia realise how hard it is to get off the beach, out of season, go and play an enthusiastic England team in front of a rabid home crowd, it is really difficult. We did it about two years ago and had a little bit of a hard time in all of the matches. And because in season we're usually reasonably convincing, I think people back here couldn't quite understand how it happened."
But back in the confines of this country, the Ferns were simulating the number of games they would play in a 10-day period in preparation for next year's Commonwealth Games and the following year's World Champs.
"It was really important, I felt, to get that learning underway when we had time to do it," Taumaunu said.
"Because at the moment there looks as though there'll be around four weeks before the end of [the] ANZ [Championship] and the beginning of Comm Games so we won't have time as a group to do that."
The 22 Silver Ferns and Accelerant Squad members, minus Joline Henry who recently gave birth to her first child, along with the 24 from the Under-21s and Emerging Talent Group, took part in seven matches at the camp.
"We've got youngsters here who have not played consecutive games on consecutive days," Taumaunu said.
"People like Kayla [Cullen] and Millie [Lees] and a few others of the younger group who haven't played the old fashioned NPC type of tournament, learnt a lot about themselves and managing themselves over a 10-day period with seven games in it."
The fitness testing at the start of the camp served up some great results, with Taumaunu "very pleased" with the physical condition of the group.
"There's an improvement by everyone," she said. "I was really pleased because sometimes summer in New Zealand, it can be hard to motivate yourself, but none of this group were in that category."
Everyone came out of the camp in good shape and will return to their ANZ Championship franchises for the start of that competition at the end of March.
"I'm delighted with them, they've worked hard, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again in August, but I'm particularly looking forward to seeing them in their franchise teams over the next six months," Taumaunu said.
- © Fairfax NZ News