21 Jan 2019

The Quad Series proves NZ is getting left behind

3:17 pm on 21 January 2019

Sports call - The emphatic Netball Quad Series was a result of world netball's forever evolution and New Zealand's results further prove we are getting left behind - writes Ravinder Hunia

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman Photo: © Actionplus 2018

Drama, heartbreak, intrigue - it was a Netball Quad Series for the ages.

The favourites Australia showed that even without captain and goal shooter Caitlin Bassett, midcourter Gabi Simpson and star goal keeper Courtney Bruce, the world number one side can still clinch a series - albeit with their backs against the wall thanks to new rivals England.

It took the Roses everything they had to secure that 52-49 win over the Diamonds this morning. No series? No worries - a win is a win against the best in the world and is the best position ahead of July's World Cup.

England coach Tracey Neville was forced to play her full hand after a 48-45 loss to South Africa the day before, benching key players to prove to the world they do in fact have the depth they are questioned about so often.

Goal attack Helen Housby spent unfamiliar time on the sideline, while veteran Rachel Dunn shot the lights out of Copper Box Arena at 96 per cent, going on to claim player of the match.

The Cinderella story well and truly lies with South Africa though. Since 2015 coach Norma Plummer has worked tirelessly to build up the country's winning mentality and found monumental success this series.

A slow start to Australia in game one fired them up to a 48-45 win over England, showing the fruits of their labour.

Although it wasn't their first ever win over the home side it was a long time coming to upset the Commonwealth Games gold medalists, but it wasn't to be realised against the Silver Ferns.

Coach Noeline Taurua can take solace from Plummer's long winded success, in fact Neville was in a similar situation to Taurua when she took over the English squad four years ago.

After five months at the helm the 62-60 win over South Africa in double extra time was sweet reprieve in dodging a worst ever Quad Series outing.

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau

Silver Ferns shooter Maria Folau Photo: All Rights Reserved

New Zealand showed gradual progression with a 54-41 loss to England and a nail-biting 53-50 loss to Australia before finally claiming victory against South Africa… just.

You can't take anything away from the Ferns' win this morning, double extra time after a game the night before is no easy feat showing true grit and determination - a real sign of progression.

So where to now?

Combinations have just been realised, potential has been shown but the Quad Series is over and despite talks of an international series before the World Cup time is ticking.

Taurua soon return to the Sunshine Coast to guide the Lightning and these players will return to their Premiership sides to play each other. (Except for Maria Folau and Laura Langman who will join their new Australian clubs).

A clear cut pattern re-emerged in the match between England and Australia and that is every player that took the court (bar shooter Rachel Dunn who has played Mainland Tactix) has or is currently playing in Australia's domestic competition, much like the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match.

South African player of the tournament defender Karla Pretorius is of the Sunshine Coast Lightning, and although shooter Lenize Potgieter plays in New Zealand, they get a two for one deal in their legendary former Australian Diamonds coach.

It's time New Zealand netball take a long hard look at the blatant contrast in competition. We are no longer Australia's biggest rival, in fact, we aren't even the third if you add Jamaica to the mix.

It's the biggest netball rebuild in New Zealand history and to put a restriction on travelling overseas in fear of losing the black dress dream is like telling NBA star Steven Adams we will let you trial for the Tall Blacks but only if you sign with the Breakers - the sport just isn't on that level.

Domestic netball and in turn international netball has taken a hit after losing the trans-Tasman relationship, and a lot more can be done than relying on Taurua to single-handedly fix it.