Taurua makes intentions clear

10:01 pm on 25 May 2019

Analysis - Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua's final squad of 12 players for the Netball World Cup in July clearly outlines her intentions for Liverpool.

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

After eight months of trials and lessons, Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua's plan for the Netball World Cup has finally been realised.

On Sunday evening, Taurua and her three fellow selectors confirmed the squad, a process which assistant coach Debbie Fuller described as effortless.

"Apart from a couple of areas it was pretty easy, the twelve came up really easy," Fuller said.

The defenders will lead the side from the back, which has historically been a strength in New Zealand World Cup squads.

With four ANZ Premiership captains in Casey Kopua, Jane Watson, Katrina Rore and Phoenix Karaka to choose from, the intention of strong leadership, communication and mental toughness against world-class shooters is clear.

Although the foursome will need to determine their leader, Taurua has asked for creativity in defence and a confident, communicative duo will ensure this.

Northern Mystics captain Karaka, who hasn't featured in the black dress since January 2018, was convinced she hadn't pipped her own players Erena Mikaere and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson.

Her side finished at the bottom of the Premiership ladder but the defensive trio were stand-outs.

Never imagining she would be picked, the 25-year-old made plans for the next phase of her life.

"After the ANZ I worked really hard and found a real job, for the first time in eight years I was prepared to have a real job but I'm lucky they are lenient and are aware of the opportunity that I have been given.

"I have been dropped two or three times so to be given another opportunity is mind blowing," Karaka said.

Mystics Erena Mikaere (L) and captain Phoenix Karaka (R).

Mystics skipper Phoenix Karaka. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Tactix captain Jane Watson is the only Cantabrian to be selected after injuries ended her teammates Temalisi Fakahokotau and Erikana Pedersen's hopes early in the season. Midcourter Kimiora Poi, who debuted in January this year, was left out of the squad.

Kopua is also the only WBOP Magic player to make it, though she was never really in doubt with Kelly Jury and Sam Sinclair both snubbed.

But the 'Cinderella story' well and truly lies with Pulse skipper Rore.

While she always hoped she would return for this World Cup after a consistent season, it was never a certainty and the 125 test-cap veteran said in hindsight she was better off missing the last series.

"I honestly protected myself for non-selection so to get the call was a very pleasant surprise.

"I did a lot behind the scenes with a new eating plan and crossfit in Wellington... I feel like the different training I've done since being dropped to now has helped me grow on and off the court as a better person and better leader."

Players admitted they raised their eyebrows at some surprise inclusions - but it wouldn't be a Taurua squad if it didn't have those.

Shannon Saunders returns to team up with fellow Southern Steel midcourter Gina Crampton.

They, along with their Southern goal attack and returning Silver Fern, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, make up a third of the squad as the most consistent midcourt of the national premiership.

Saunders did well to edge out Pulse wing attack Whitney Souness, although Fuller made clear players topping season statistics wasn't enough alone to secure a spot.

With all 12 players having played for the Ferns before, another obvious pattern is the depth of experience and the midcourt is no different with Laura Langman named captain.

Again, her selection was never in doubt but it appears there will be no 'Captain Voting System' this time with the Sunshine Coast Lightning skipper proving worthy early.

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman Photo: © Actionplus 2018

Pulse wing defender Karin Burger completes the set with no other player ever really in contention for the wing defence spot.

Burger topped the stats with most intercepts - not easy in WD - as well as improved attack play. Taurua is renowned for her tall wing defence preference, but Burger has more than earned her place.

The dynamic of the shooting circle gets very interesting.

No goal shooting specialist has been selected for the pinnacle event, which meant Aliyah Dunn and Maia Wilson missed out, leaving punters to bet Taurua is seeking a very mobile and creative structure under the hoop.

Mobile shooters means more chances to confuse and separate opposition defenders.

It's a tall task but a genius one if it can be executed, and this is where that all important fitness kicks in.

Maria Folau, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Bailey Mes (who also doubles as a midcourter) have played together before but never been fine-tuned under Taurua's watch.

Traditionally, Folau has served as goal shooter and Ekenasio as her partner to run her trademark pocket drives and the top of the circle, although in the past they have been caught a lot of the time in the same space.

Central Pulse Ameliaranne Ekenasio shoots for goal during a match against the Northern Stars.

Pulse shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Why you ask? They have similar styles in movement and long range shooting, meaning improving their communication as well as sound relationships with their midcourters will be key.

Selby-Rickit can help with that by bridging the gap of attack to shoot easily with her Steel teammates in the middle.

Then there is Mes, who hasn't had the best track record of shooting percentages. But this could be Taurua's project, 50 days to craft the ever-athletic Mes into the player she has every potential to be.

"You are going to a World Cup and international netball is different to the ANZ so you have to be able to play five hard international games in a row, have a day off, then play the top four countries and come up trumps," Fuller said.

"It's about repeat performance, it's about who can last the distance and still play at the highest level and it's about players who can manage those heated moments.

"Noels says when you get over there you'll get found out so everything has to be on the line back here so that we prepare world class and we get over there and we get the job done."

The Silver Ferns will assemble for the first time one week after the ANZ Premiership grand final on 3 June.