Kayla Cullen vows best is yet to come from wounded Silver Ferns

Kayla Cullen and the Silver Ferns have found it tough to break through some relentless Australian defence in the ...
Anthony Au-Yeung

Kayla Cullen and the Silver Ferns have found it tough to break through some relentless Australian defence in the Constellation Cup.

Kayla Cullen has stuck up for the Silver Ferns' underfire midcourt, stressing only a full team effort will get them back into the Constellation Cup.

New Zealand head into Wednesday night's test in Adelaide with dented confidence after losing both home matches in the best-of-four series.

The Silver Ferns must beat the Diamonds in the remaining two games, and by convincing margins, to have any slim shot of reclaiming the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.

Kayla Cullen says only a full team effort will drag them back into the Constellation Cup.
Anthony Au-Yeung

Kayla Cullen says only a full team effort will drag them back into the Constellation Cup.

Cullen said no-one was more annoyed about Sunday's 60-52 loss than the players themselves, with the team only showing patches of what they were capable of. 

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New Zealand's midcourt has copped plenty of criticism in the first two games being outplayed by Australian counterparts Liz Watson, Kim Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson. 

Centre Shannon Francois is under pressure to retain her starting spot after struggling in the first two Constellation ...
Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.

Centre Shannon Francois is under pressure to retain her starting spot after struggling in the first two Constellation Cup tests.

Not enough pressure has been applied defensively with Australia finding it too easy to send the ball into star goal shoot and captain Caitlin Bassett. 

On attack, the connections between the midcourt and shooters has at times lacked precision with possession squandered away at key stages. 

Cullen, who has been used off the bench at wing defence, said they hadn't singled out any one area of the court as letting them down. Every player wearing the black dress needed to step up their game and bring more urgency defensively.

Down on confidence, we'll learn a lot about the character of the Silver Ferns in the final two Constellation Cup tests ...
John Davidson / www.photosport.n

Down on confidence, we'll learn a lot about the character of the Silver Ferns in the final two Constellation Cup tests in Australia.

"I don't think the focus has been on the midcourt. It's a team game and I think we haven't focused on centre or wing attack or wing defence or whatever.

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"We're just looking at it as a team. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone does good things. We don't really focus on one person or one position like that."

Centre Shannon Francois is under pressure to hold her starting spot after quiet play in the first two losses. Coach Janine Southby must be tempted to begin with Samantha Sinclair, given the impact she has created when used there in the second half. 

The Silver Ferns have been bitterly disappointing in the Constellation Cup after a character-building 57-47 victory over the Diamonds in last month's Quad Series decider in Invercargill.

With time ticking until April's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, New Zealand desperately need to salvage some pride in the remaining two matches for their own self belief. 

Cullen said they trusted their processes and didn't believe they had suddenly become a horrible side.

"We haven't been playing the best netball we would have hoped to and haven't got the results we would have wanted.

"I think the key now is looking forward and pulling all the positives out of those games and nailing those consistently I guess."

The versatile Cullen, who can also cover goal defence, conceded she wasn't where she wanted to be after returning from clean out surgery on her left knee in July. 

She wasn't on any minute restriction, but said it was taking time to regain her acceleration, rhythm and confidence in the international environment again.

Cullen was seen icing her knee on the sideline in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but declared herself good to go for game three.

Marking Australian netballers is a challenge at the best of times, but even more difficult when you're down on recent court-time.

"I definitely wouldn't say I'm playing my best netball at the moment. I'm getting there and hopefully it will continue to get better and better.

"With surgery on anything, you're kind of wary. You don't want to push it as hard. It's definitely a lot better than it was a few months ago."

AT A GLANCE:

Constellation Cup game three.

Adelaide; Wednesday 9.45pm NZ time.

New Zealand: Katrina Grant (c), Bailey Mes, Maria Tutaia, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Maia Wilson, Gina Crampton, Shannon Francois, Samantha Sinclair, Kayla Cullen, Kelly Jury, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Jane Watson. 

Australia: Caitlin Bassett (c), Susan Pettitt, Steph Wood, Caitlin Thwaites, Liz Watson, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson, Caitlyn Nevins, Kate Moloney, April Brandley, Courtney Bruce, Jo Weston, Emily Mannix. 

 - Stuff

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