Silver Ferns Netball World Cup squad predictions

10:01 pm on 25 May 2019

Sports call - The 12 players to represent New Zealand at July's Netball World Cup will be unveiled on Thursday and with the Premiership ending, netball reporter Ravinder Hunia weighs in on who has done enough to book a spot.

Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman

Laura Langman is a certainty for the Silver Ferns World Cup squad, according to Ravinder Hunia. Photo: © Patrick Hamilton / Photosport. All Rights Reserved

The netball Premiership finalists have been known for some time, but the final round of the regular season showed players across all six teams still have a reason to leave a lasting impression.

The season itself is ending as predicted with last year's finalists, the Central Pulse and Southern Steel, dominating the top of the table once again, while the Northern Stars take their place in their first ever elimination final against the Steel.

But do placings warrant a world cup spot? Not necessarily.

With no trial process, every player has had the 2019 season to prove their worth for national selections.

In the past, a squad of 25 would be chosen to trial for positions, and most importantly, work on combinations for the Silver Ferns - that's no longer the case.

Those who served under coach Noeline Taurua before will have an obvious advantage, but those not selected were given clear instructions to work up to Thursday's announcement, in particular with fitness.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua at Silver Ferns training

Will Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua offer up any surprises in her Netball World Cup selections? Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Potential shooters

Luckily for Maria Folau there are no trials as her team, the Adelaide Thunderbirds, are in full swing in the Australian domestic competition.

Her exemption of being allowed to represent New Zealand while playing in Australia is a bent rule but is strongly welcomed.

Silver Ferns goal shooter Maria Folau

Maria Folau remains New Zealand's top shooter, according to Ravinder Hunia. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Shooting at 80 percent for the T-Birds this season and getting the exposure against key international players is a huge tick for world cup strategy, and at 138 test-caps she is one of the most experienced long-range goal attackers in the world.

With former Silver Ferns, shooter Irene van Dyk and midcourter Sandra Edge, joining coaching forces at the Pulse, Wellington has had the strongest attack end of the competition.

The notable combination of centre Claire Kersten and wing attack Whitney Souness have cemented connections with goal shooter Aliyah Dunn who finishes the regular season at 92 percent and as the most accurate shooter this season.

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

Ameliaranne Ekenasio will partner Folau in the attacking circle, according to Ravinder Hunia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

If there was ever any doubt of getting the ball to Dunn, Ameliaranne Ekenasio's speedy entry into the circle via the pockets, or rides at the top of the circle made up for it at goal attack (she has also proven a competent goal shooter), creating the perfect balance and my vote as Silver Fern shooting duo.

In terms of fitness though another handy goal shooter this season was the Stars Maia Wilson who had one of her best seasons to date, this could very well sway selectors votes her way.

The midcourt

Cue Silver Ferns captain Laura Langman.

Like Folau, her exemption is based on years of service to the Ferns though it's her leadership in the midcourt that counts most.

She's Taurua's captain at the Sunshine Coast Lightning for a reason (who are currently third in the competition) and with 151 test-caps, three world cups, three Commonwealth Games campaigns and an Australian title under her belt - she's a deserved centre.

While speculation surrounds the inclusion of former international Liana Leota who just won a UK Superleague title with the Manchester Thunder, similar flare and dynamic court-craft can be found in 23-year-old Souness who is my choice to make another bid for the WA bib.

Central Pulse Whitney Souness.

Whitney Souness has been one of the netballers in the country this season, according to Ravinder Hunia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Pulse players feature a lot already in this line up but there is no denying the Karin Burger was standout at wing defence this season.

It's not easy to accumulate the most intercepts in a season in this position, but that's what she has done while showing versatility in goal defence and keep. Her height is a master stroke in the middle which I predict will edge out both former wing defenders Sam Sinclair and Kayla Cullen.

The reigning champions the Southern Steel eventually found their stride after a rocky start to 2019.

Combinations with South African import shooter Lenize Potgieter proved problematic with no pre-season prep, the adjustment causing centre Shannon Saunders and wing attack Gina Crampton to polish their triangle work around the circle edge to utilise goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit frequently - who - took a lot longer to click with her new partner.

Silver Fern Shannon Francois

Shannon Saunders has played her way to Liverpool, according to Ravinder Hunia. Photo: PhotoSport

The Steel are now undefeated after six games, their last loss handed by the Pulse in round seven which they have since redeemed in the season's final Super Sunday round in Invercargill, largely thanks to one of the most clinical midcourt outfits in the league.

With an unassuming 59 test-caps to her name Saunders has plenty of experience with the marked veterans of the side, as well as a sound combination with teammate Crampton. With impressive fitness levels, and speed through court this duo tips the scale to make up my middle order.

If there were to be any surprises, my bet is we will see it in the attack end.

Possible defenders

Silver Fern defenders have been by far the hardest to pick with so many players rising to the occasion for their own unique reasons.

Farewelled WBOP Magic captain Casey Kopua is an obvious choice. Yes, she's played for over a decade in the black dress, but not many defenders have a presence that worry shooters before the game starts - that's the Kopua effect. A strong work ethic and a player who leaves no stone unturned is exactly what the Silver Ferns need if they're a chance at international redemption.

Pulse netballer Karin Burger.

Ravinder Hunia expects Karin Burger will be the final midcourter named in the Silver Ferns squad. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A logical choice in partner would be Mainland Tactix' captain Jane Watson. Top deflections, second most rebounds and intercepts this season but away from the stats board an ability to successfully hunt for ball, strong command for front space and impressive elevation to contest the ball in the air - Watson has more than earned her spot in the fold.

The final two defenders cause a headache of the best kind.

Pulse captain Katrina Rore has done everything to vie for a spot, but no defender works alone, and season partner Sulu Fitzpatrick has strong competition at goal keep. A trials process backfire for these two who possess the strongest shooters in their own team - unable to be tested in real time against the best.

Katrina Rore (nee Grant) in action against Malawi at the 2018 Taini Jamison trophy

Katrina Rore can still make the cut, according to netball reporter Ravinder Hunia. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Michaela Sokolich-Beatson whose rise in captaincy made her a standout for the Mystics in Phoenix Karaka's injury absence at her preferred position of goal defence. MSB is often referred to as the future Silver Ferns captain - but to look past Karaka especially after her last outting with the Mystics? How do you look past Kopua's defending 2IC Kelly Jury, or the equally rangy Erena Mikaere? I don't think anyone envies Noeline Taurua's task of selecting a final twelve, but here are my top picks

Ravinder Hunia's Silver Ferns World Cup squad predictions

Shooters:

Maria Folau

Ameliaranne Ekenasio

Aliyah Dunn

Midcourters:

Laura Langman

Whitney Souness

Gina Crampton

Shannon Saunders

Karin Burger

Defenders:

Casey Kopua

Jane Watson

Katrina Rore

Michaela Sokolich-Beatson

The Silver Ferns announcement will take place at ILT Stadium in Invercargill on Thursday 23 May.

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