19 Oct 2018

Netball: No fairytale end for Silver Ferns...but that was only a dream

10:27 am on 19 October 2018

Sports Call - It wasn't the fairy tale ending to the Constellation Cup series for the Silver Ferns but that was never the plan, writes Ravinder Hunia.

Silver Ferns head coach Noeline Taurua

Silver Ferns head coach Noeline Taurua Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Under the guidance of head coach Noeline Taurua the Silver Ferns couldn't snatch the Constellation Cup series after a 58 to 47 loss in the decider in Wellington but they can at least put to rest a daunting restructure phase.

Winning an international series title was always going to be an added bonus for a team who were reluctantly in rehab, Taurua making it clear from the outset that progression was priority.

In little under two months, Taurua worked on the toughest task of any Silver Ferns coach before her in attempting to rebuild a team whose spirits were severed.

The 50-year-old was handed a team breaking records in all the wrong ways: A clean sweep loss at the 2017 Constellation Cup, finishing fourth at the FAST5 world series, losing the Netball Quad title in January, historic losses to Jamaica losing the Taini Jamison series for the first time and failing to medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games including a significant loss to Malawi.

  • The instant impact of Taurua
  • Taurua had a week to prepare for her maiden international voyage at the helm and she instantly put the team to work with intense training sessions promoting accountability for actions on court and open conversations after every drill - one of many new practices.

    The team were given the opportunity to vote returning midcourter Laura Langman as captain with Katrina Grant as second in command which assisted in capturing her players holistically restoring order at their own hand.

  • Netball:Langman named new Silver Ferns captain
  • In the eyes of her critics the Netball Quad series was a speed bump in Taurua's short tenure. The expectation to win weighed heavily on the Ferns although Taurua didn't bat an eyelid to the backlash after winning only one out three games.

    Instead the result was used as the foundation she needed to adjust her combinations and strategy in preparation for the looming Constellation Cup.

    The team travelled to Australia and lost game one by 15 goals, game two by nine and game three defeated the Diamonds 55 to 44 in Hamilton - and what do you know? Game four's decider in Wellington was a sell-out.

    Head coach Noeline Taurua directing the Silver Ferns in between quarters

    Head coach Noeline Taurua directing the Silver Ferns in between quarters Photo: © Patrick Hamilton / Photosport. All Rights Reserved

    It had appeared Taurua and her black dress army had finally won back the faith of the New Zealand public.

    Coming into the decider as favourites the Silver Ferns struggled to start the way they did only four days earlier. A scorned Australian Diamonds' 'backpack' defence proved difficult to contest, but in true fashion with an uncooperative scoreboard Taurua saw opportunity.

    After no changes to her line-up after two matches defender Sulu Fitzpatrick took to the court to inject strength to counter Australian attackers, Aliyah Dunn was also injected to increase shooting percentages.

    The final quarter also welcomed shooter Maia Wilson with changes achieving a final quarter win - progression even in the darkest of moments.

    This may conclude the Silver Ferns international season but the hard work starts now. Taurua is back to the drawing board to prepare for her first Silver Ferns trials in December ahead of the 2019 Quad Series that will ultimately determine her squad for Liverpool's Netball World Cup.

    - RNZ