23 Mar 2019

Netball: Why the Silver Ferns need the 'Temepara' touch

9:47 am on 23 March 2019

Sports call - Silver Fern great Temepara Bailey has already made her mark domestically, Ravinder Hunia explains why Noeline Taurua should take note ahead of the 2019 Netball World Cup.

Northern Stars midcourter Temepara Bailey is making waves in the 2019 ANZ Premiership season

Northern Stars midcourter Temepara Bailey is making waves in the 2019 ANZ Premiership season Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2019 www.photosport.nz

Former Silver Fern Temepara Bailey's return to domestic netball was the desperate change the Northern Stars needed.

For a club in its infancy, the results in 2017 (fifth place) and 2018 (sixth/last) place are fairly dismissed as "teething" problems, not to mention the turnover of players and staff.

But the Star's transformation come 2019 shook every other team before the season had even started, and rightfully so.

The announcement that 43-year-old Temepara Bailey would trade in her 'Augustine' assistant coaching kit for a purple playing dress proving instrumental to the side's new-found form.

The south Auckland franchise are now headed towards breaking a club record of more than four wins in one season with three victories so far, including a win over reigning champions the Southern Steel.

The Stars have also reintroduced veterans Leana de Bruin and Kayla Cullen, but it's Bailey's experience and the 'apprenticeship' style approach with players that has crafted the side's early attacking success.

It's a problem all too familiar for the Silver Ferns.

Let's face it, since Bailey's retirement from all netball in 2014 no other player has even come close to the legacy she left in the sport, the hole at wing attack never quite being filled to that standard again.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua at Silver Ferns training

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

The Stars frantically searched for leadership to conduct play in the middle and struck gold, something six weeks out from the Netball World Cup Taurua is still looking to solidify.

The Northern Stars may hold the key for Taurua here, or at least a few pointers.

As it stands the competition with the current wing attacks on offer are gradually developing within the domestic competition. Whitney Souness, Gina Crampton and Elisapeta Toeava have all featured in the WA bib over the last international season and offer their own unique qualities.

Souness - Speed to drive the ball through court as well as to hit the circle edge is a strength for Souness. Her constant quick release of the ball to Aliyah Dunn impressive.

Crampton - Speed off the line to receive centre pass and an eagle eye to sight shooters from any distance serves her well. Her switching with Shannon Saunders at circle edge to open up the shooters an attribute.

Toeava - Court craft to lose defenders and feed shooters sees Toeava shine in the middle. No-look and speedy passes as well as her sight on the circle edge is a true strength.

With Laura Langman at centre, all potentials have played alongside her - but only the 89-test cap veteran has the experience of playing a world cup campaign with her. In fact, Bailey is the only WA hopeful on any domestic roster with world cup experience at all.

Langman and Bailey last featured at a world cup together in the 2011 gold medal match against Australia (which they lost 58 to 57), while Bailey also played in the 2003 world cup win in Jamaica.

Leana De Bruin, Temepara Bailey and Laura Langman celebrate gold medal at 2010 Commonwealth Games

Leana De Bruin, Temepara Bailey and Laura Langman celebrate gold medal at 2010 Commonwealth Games Photo: www.photosport.co.nz

Most famously though, their trademark triangles anchored the midcourt to a famous 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal 66 to 64 win over Australia, in double extra time. She also played beside Casey Kopua, Katrina Rore, Maria Folau, de Bruin and Cullen (2011).

But that was eight years ago? Yes.

But the game has evolved greatly since then? Correct.

Yet here she is resurrecting a New Zealand franchise squad, not only as a mentor but physically showing that age hasn't affected the all important 'netball brain'.

Bailey's experience is of great value to the Ferns as world cup season approaches having already proven that her game smarts are still second to none - arguably the key ingredient still missing from the Ferns.

While we are throwing the book at this campaign with veterans allowed to play in Australia while being selected for Ferns, shoulder tapping Taurua for the top job, appointing specialist coaches - why not utilise Bubby?

If her time on court doesn't come to fruition, a reunion with Langman - the best defending midcourter in the game - to guide the middies wouldn't go astray.

Physically, emotionally and mentally no one else does it, or has done it, better in attack than Bailey and her season so far shows she has much more to give.

With three wins after ten international matches under Taurua's reign so far, what is there to lose?