22 Mar 2018

Biggest NZ Commonwealth Games team confirmed

10:53 am on 22 March 2018

New Zealand will send its largest ever team to a Commonwealth Games following the selection of the women's basketball team for the Gold Coast next month.

The naming of the Tall Ferns concludes selections for the Games with the basketballers taking the final team number to 251 athletes.

The major talking point of the Tall Ferns squad is the selection of 16 year old Charlisse Leger-Walker who will beome the youngest player to represent New Zealand.

Charlisse Leger-Walker playing for the Junior Tall Ferns.

Charlisse Leger-Walker playing for the Junior Tall Ferns. Photo: Photosport

She will be the third member of her family to represent New Zealand at senior level following sister Krystal and mother Leanne.

Tall Ferns coach Guy Molloy said Leger-Walker "plays with the poise of a much older player and is a very clever playmaker."

Leger-Walker said having attended two training camps she felt comfortable in the Tall Ferns environment.

"The other girls treat me the same as everyone else and I don't feel like I should step back. The senior players like Natalie and Micaela, who have a lot of experience in this team, are really good and treat me like any other player."

She said her mother was particularly proud.

"My mum was really excited. She has a bit of a poker face, but beneath that seriousness she was really happy."

Being the youngest member of the team is not unusual situation for Leger-Walker.

"Since I was about 11 years-old, filling in for my sisters teams, I have played with older players so that's the way I have been brought up.

"I think it has also worked well that I have played for the Junior Tall Ferns at a young age so it makes the transition to this team so much easier. Playing up in the age-groups has really benefitted my game skills and my basketball IQ,"

Balancing her school studies and playing international basketball presents a challenge that Leger-Walker is confident she can handle.

"I'm going to miss three weeks of school so it is going to be difficult. This term there are a lot of internals that I will have to catch up on in term two."

"Last year when I was away with New Zealand U16's it worked out better, as it was mainly revision work at school. My teachers are really excited for me and we have been working together to ensure I don't miss out on any credits," she said.

While lacking height the Tall Ferns side is "fast and skilled" said Molloy who has gone for a mix of youth and experience in his line-up with nine of the squad having gone to the Asia Cup in Bangalore last July.

Guy Molloy

Guy Molloy Photo: WNBL

"Tall Ferns veterans such as Micaela Cocks, Toni Farnworth, and Natalie Purcell will lead admirably, whilst other talented Australian WNBL players Kalani Purcell, Chevannah Paalvast, and Jordan Hunter will provide scoring power and great defense," he said.

Cocks, is the only member of the side that won a silver medal at the 2006 Games in Melbourne, when basketball was last included in the Games programme.

The Tall Ferns will head into a pre-Games training camp before opening their opening match against Malaysia in Cairns on April 5th.

New Zealand Tall Ferns Team:

Jessica Bygate, Micaela Cocks, Antonia Farnworth, Deena Franklin, Jordan Hunter, Zara Jillings, Charlisse Leger-Walker, Chevannah Paalvast, Kalani Purcell, Erin Rooney, Josie Stockill, Natalie Taylor.