3 Jul 2015

Coach had to break hearts and be bold

6:24 pm on 3 July 2015

OPINION: Despite her unflappable persona, Wai Taumaunu must have felt sick to the stomach on Wednesday night when she sat down to tell loyal veterans they hadn't made the cut for the Netball World Cup.

Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu says there's be no "yelling and screaming" in their wake of two humiliating losses to Australia.

Silver Ferns coach Wai Taumaunu Photo: Photosport

But after a nine-game losing streak to Australia, New Zealand was looking stale and the Silver Ferns coach had to be bold.

In recent times, it has seemed like it was harder to be dropped from the Silver Ferns than to actually get into the side, but players were really under the pump this week to make the final 12 to take on the best in Sydney next month.

Imagine having to tell Cathrine Latu that she had missed out on her Silver Ferns world cup dream - for a second time.

After representing Samoa at the 2007 Netball World Championships, Latu served a four year stand-down period to be eligible to play for the Silver Ferns.

Netball New Zealand went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to try to get her in the team for the 2011 World Cup but world sport's top judicial body rejected their bid.

The goal shooter's ability to stand up to the Australian defenders would have gnawed away at the selectors.

It's hard to name a game when Latu got the better of fierce Australian goal keeper Laura Geitz, as highlighted in the recent ANZ semi-final between the Northern Mystics and the Queensland Firebirds.

Latu was again troubled by the Diamonds' skipper and benched at three-quarter time after putting up 17 from 18: great accuracy but just not enough shots at goal, which has been an ongoing theme.

New Zealand netballer Cathrine Latu

Cathrine Latu has struggled against the Australian opposition. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

She also copped six offensive penalties in that game - something that her and the Ferns' coaching staff had tried to address but was obviously still an issue.

She was given time - Latu made her debut for New Zealand in October 2011 but, despite a lot of promise, just hasn't taken her game to the next level.

Liana Leota, the 2010 ANZ championship MVP winner, is the other major casualty. She is still a gifted feeder but we missed her free runs and flying assaults onto the circle edge for the Pulse this year.

The diminutive wing attack seemed to find it harder to see and get around taller defenders.

Grace Rasmussen has consistently been the strongest wing attack over the past couple of seasons, so deserves her place.

World Cup debutant Shannon Francois can cover wing attack and is also a genuine option at centre, a position that Laura Langman seems to have carried single handedly for a few seasons now.

While Langman is a tremendous centre, she doesn't possess a natural-born flair for feeding into shooters.

Francois' inclusion may allow Langman to drop back to wing defence, where she started her career.

Taumaunu would have found it tough telling 91 test veteran Joline Henry she wouldn't be going to her third world cup.

There's something about the way Henry plays the game that reminds you of a young Taumaunu in the black dress - uncompromising and business-like.

Kayla Cullen comes in at Henry's expense. She can cover wing defence and goal defence and is the kind of player who can pick up flashy intercepts, while Henry is more about applying cumulative pressure.

It's a lot to ask of Bailey Mes and Malia Paseka to throw them into the lion's den at a world cup.

New Silver Ferns shooter Malia Paseka.

Silver Ferns debutant Malia Paseka Photo: Photosport

Some might question the inclusion of Mes based on her shooting stats but she made a noticeable difference to the Silver Ferns' attacking end when she came on during the Constellation Cup last year. That end suddenly looked more dynamic and the ball was able to be fired in to her with more ease.

While not playing in her preferred position of goal shoot, her move to the Tactix has meant she's had regular time in the shooting circle, her stats improving over the season.

Paseka is a rough diamond but she's exciting and her elevation is tremendous. She can also play both shooting positions and the Silver Ferns have the ability now to chop and change their shooting circle, offering unpredictability.

That will at least give the Diamonds something to think about. We can no longer beat the Australians with a top seven, we need to be able to rotate players as a tactic in itself.

It takes the opposition time to adjust to a new player and it's something Australia has been doing to New Zealand for a long time.

Young defender Phoenix Karaka will also head to her first world cup and is a worthy inclusion in an otherwise experienced back line.

Will all this be enough to challenge Australia at the 2015 World Cup and stave off a plucky England?

Given they lost their last five meetings by an average of 12 goals to Australia - perhaps that's just too much ground to cover.

But with just over a month before this year's world cup kicks off, better to go with a team that offers hope rather than one that would have almost guaranteed failure.

New Zealand's 2015 World Cup Team:

  • Latu dogged by disappointing form
  • Silver Ferns dump trio
  • Revamped Silver Ferns can topple Australia
  • Diamonds name World Cup squad
  • Firebirds win netball title