Ferns want to end 2012 season on a high note
The Quad Series title might be all but out of their grasp, but the Silver Ferns have one last chance to wrest the momentum from the Australian Diamonds, and go into next year the happier of the two camps.
Tonight the old rivals do battle for the 111th time in the final round of the series at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton.
Having been dealt a 20-goal thumping in their previous meeting in Sydney, New Zealand would need to hand the Diamonds something like the record 25-goal belting they dished out in Auckland in 2005 to overhaul the Aussies on goal differential.
Ferns goal attack Maria Tutaia said enough homework had been done on their opponents and they just needed to get out and rectify what happened in Sydney.
"Honestly, it was just our stupid, uncharacteristic mistakes," she said of that loss. "We've watched it many times and it doesn't look like the Silver Fern team that we know, and the Silver Fern game that we can play.
"This week has been all about cutting our error rate down.
"We know we can play great netball and we know that we are the best.
"We've just got to kill it tomorrow to be honest. There's no excuses.
"If we want to end 2012 with a bang, tomorrow is our only chance."
Unlikely as a series win is, the real focus for the Ferns is recapturing the form with which they beat their trans-Tasman neighbours in the Constellation Cup series in September.
Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu feels she has done enough rotating and building of depth through the series, so New Zealand will go out with all their big guns blazing.
Taumaunu has given her players plenty of rest time since their trip back from the first leg of the series in Australia, and now needs one giant performance from her troops, who, like the Aussies, are feeling the effects of a long series and season.
She labelled the likes of Leana de Bruin, Katrina Grant and Anna Harrison as "unsung heroes" for the extended time they have had to be on court in both games and training sessions when skipper Casey Williams was missing through injury.
At yesterday's training session at St Paul's Collegiate School, the Ferns had a game against nine Waikato players to replicate the Australian intensity and the way they shut down space, with Taumaunu getting her players to learn that there is always space on court but that they had to work harder to find it.
With the teams knowing each other so well, Taumaunu said she would be mightily impressed if the Diamonds could come up with something surprising, and likewise felt the Diamonds wouldn't be too surprised by them, though her counterpart Lisa Alexander felt there were still some areas of mystery.
"We've analysed a couple of setups that we think the Silver Ferns are going to trial on us," Alexander said. "So we'll have a couple of new things up our sleeve to combat that. We're just looking forward to the challenge of rising again and showing all of our fans back in Australia that in Sydney it wasn't a fluke, it was built on hard work."
Alexander has freshened her players up, with a few sleep-ins this week, before training at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls yesterday.
Captain Natalie von Bertouch and vice-captain Catherine Cox have overcome knocks sustained in their last outing against England.
Alexander said they couldn't take things for granted, even after their last win against the Ferns.
"In high level sport, sometimes it can just be like that," she said of her team's huge win that day. "No matter what you're trying, sometimes things just don't come off for you, and sometimes teams can have just the run of everything, it goes their way. We expect that won't happen again; we expect this will be a really close contest."
Ferns vice-captain Laura Langman spent yesterday afternoon sitting her final university exam ahead of her 90th consecutive test.