In just three years, Noeline Taurua has turned the Silver Ferns from a disaster to champions and for the first time in her tenure, she is faced with a challenge every coach would love to have – too much talent.
Despite having three stalwarts missing the series against the England Roses this week, the Silver Ferns will come out strong and credit where credit is due – it is all thanks to Noels and the system she has provided to best talents in the country.
The Finest Defenders
In 2018, one of the very first things Noeline Taurua implemented was a standard fitness level one that has seen many Silver Ferns dropped on a variety of occasions.
In 2021, many of the ANZ Premiership teams wanted to prepare their players to be on the squad and implemented the fitness standards into their own training regime.
This has meant we have seen some incredible development from players across the board and the highlight has to start with Kelly Jury.
Her beautiful long limbs are something that every shooter should be scared of yet hasn’t made the squad since 2019 due to a range of injuries and her inability to meet fitness standards.
Throughout her season at the Central Pulse, we saw Jury flourish into this war machine of a player who could cleanly intercept the ball but also play out the full 60 minutes without a wavering tired look.
She joins the defensive end with premiership players Karin Burger and newly appointed vice-captain Sulu Fitzpatrick.
If you could describe Karin Burger in one word it is grit. Her sheer determination to never give up and her graceful athleticism make her one of the best defensive players in the ANZ Premiership.
In 2021, Burger topped the stats board in deflections, intercepts and defensive rebounds and she found the unraveling flaw in almost every shooter she played against.
Similarly, Fitzpatrick is a force to be reckoned with strong in voice, character and muscle often pulling off the hoist in fantastic fashion.
But it is not just her playing ability that the Roses should be wary of, Fitzpatrick has the game sense and knowledge of a pure mastermind.
Last year, when the Ferns played the Roses Fitzpatrick was pivotal in shutting down Eleanor Cardwell and stopping Sophie Drakeford-Lewis’ baseline drives.
And throughout the ANZ season, one of the only defensive duos to perfectly shut down George Fisher included Sulu Fitzpatrick.
Who to watch in the Midcourt
Yet again the Silver Ferns are coming in heavy with midcourters and this boatload of talent has a range of skillset like none other.
Captain Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders are regulars to the lineup and are known for perfect passing and hitting the circle edge without trying.
Their attacking combo is often supported by Sam Sinclair who has a creative flair for the WD position.
The Silver Ferns are likely to stick to the familiar and reliable trio to start and finish the game but Noeline Taurua will look to test her bench and try combinations throughout this series and the Constellation Cup to find the best starting combo for the Commonwealth Games.
Some of those combinations may include young guns, Kimiora Poi, Maddy Gordon and Kate Heffernan, powerhouse Peta Toeava or consistent Clare Kersten who have all demonstrated their strength, physicality and finesse and ability to predict play as it happens.
Shooting in Style
In the shooting end, Noeline will take four shooters to post with her two of which are likely to debut for the Silver Ferns.
Maia Wilson had an impressively accurate season and will look to continue her form and solidify her position as starting GS. Grace Nweke who is a part of the training camp is hot on her heels after a stunning ANZ Premiership.
For Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Tiana Metuarau and Jamie Hume this will be their opportunity to show why they deserve a spot in the squad for the Commonwealth Games with Ameliaranne Ekenasio expected to make a return in 2022.
If not, they may end up watching from the couch.
For Metuarau it will be a bittersweet debut on the court as she comes up against George Fisher, her trusty partner in crime this past season
But Metuarauis another crafty, slick player who mimics the playing abilities of Cat Tuivati and has so much playing potential.
Her look-away passes, baseline drives and confidence to shoot long-range shots that look unachievable is impressive and is something that will definitely confuse the English defenders.
Jamie Hume has also had an impressive season shooting long-range shots and having one the highest accuracies for a high-scoring Goal Attack in the ANZ Premiership.
Yet it will be her confidence and ability to shoulder the physicality in these games that will determine if she stays on.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge for Taurua heading into this series has to be the limited amount of time players have had to prepare due to ongoing COVID lockdowns.
In Monday’s announcement, it was not a surprise to see the exclusion of Nweke and Toeava in the twelve as they have only arrived at the camp on Friday after being in five weeks of lockdown.
With less than 12 months away from the Comm Games, the Silver Ferns want all their players to connect and be in the best shape possible but they need to solidify their starting seven, this series is the best place to do that.
Categories: International Tests
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