19 Dec 2019

Netball: No room for bolters under Noeline Taurua's selection approach

7:18 pm on 19 December 2019

Silver Ferns mentor Noeline Taurua is a coach who thinks outside the box, but has continued a conservative approach to selecting players.

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua at Silver Ferns training

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

And as long as Taurua rightly upholds her fitness demands it's unlikely any out and out bolters will make the cut under her watch.

Excitement machines like 17-year-old shooter Grace Nweke and 19-year-old midcourter Maddy Gordon might have been promoted early under previous Silver Ferns coaches but not Taurua.

With her World Cup selections earlier this year Taurua showed she values experience.

On Tuesday, Taurua made three changes to her side for next month's Netball Nations Cup in England - but two were to accommodate sabbaticals and the other due to the retirement of shooting legend Maria Folau.

The world champions will meet Jamaica, South Africa and England, without experienced duo in captain Laura Langman and Katrina Rore, who are taking breaks after coming off heavy workloads.

Taurua hoped that having that time away would help stretch out their careers and said they had to be flexible if they wanted to keep veterans in the game.

"Once you play so many Tests and you get closer to the end it's just taking every campaign or every week at a time and I'm prepared to do that to keep them in the game if they want to keep playing," Taurua said.

She also knows players simply won't be able to carry out her game plan without a certain fitness level.

Taurua said there were at least "six or seven players that are underneath" who were not considered for the Nations Cup because they haven't reached fitness requirements but weren't far off.

"There's three great shooters that are there and hopefully by the end of next year they'll be able to meet the fitness standards which will mean they will be up for contention of selection so we're not too far away and there's a couple also in the defensive end that are a few yoyos off.

"We don't have a lot options at the moment but the ones that are in the 12 stood up and showed their development over their time within the Silver Ferns but the future is looking good. We just have to keep some of these ones nudging forward and put a lot of focus into them over the ANZ season."

She said there had been a big shift in the time she had been there.

"When I first came in, and it sounds terrible, but we had nearly over a half of athletes that were under the fitness levels. Our in circle defensive end and shooting were below par.

"But now across the Silver Ferns squad and development squad we've only got six or seven out of around 35 athletes that are not at the standard, but they are young and they are moving in the right direction."

Mystics shooter Grace Nweke performed well at the Super Club tournament in Nelson and is a mouth watering prospect, but at just 17-years-old she is unlikely to have the fitness base yet to be able to make that particular grade.

Taurua also likes to invest in players and stick with them.

"We've had I suppose a core group of players over the last two years that have retained their positions so we've been slowing building them. Not only with what they do on court but also increasing their leadership skills and walking alongside the Laura Langman's and that so that they learn what needs to happen when Laura's not there so we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes."

Grace Nweke.
Mystics v Magic, ANZ Premiership Super Sunday, The Trusts Arena, Auckland, New Zealand. Monday 1 April 2019. © Copyright Image: Marc Shannon / www.photosport.nz.

Grace Nweke Photo: Photosport Ltd 2019

Taurua was conscious of succession planning as soon as she took on the job.

"Even last year we were looking at succession plans not only on court but also in the leadership stakes as well so now is the time I suppose when we hit Northern Quad that we have to put that in to action and see how we go."

Taurua said Folau was so integral to the team that it was hard to measure what impact her loss would be.

"Ameliaranne Ekenasio who has that same shooting prowess has definitely been able to stand up for us over the last two years and show her prowess as an amazing international shooter.

"But once again, 150 Tests is going to be a big gap so it's going to take time to keep building those ones underneath and our readiness to get them out on court and at a high elite level is something that we have to work through."

Taurua said last week's Super Club tournament in Nelson highlighted the bridge between New Zealand and Australian sides, with the Collingwood Magpies going through undefeated.

"There still is a gap there and even the standards that we put in regards to the fitness standards and the Silver Ferns ability to be able to constantly perform... is still an area to work on.

"I feel that probably demonstrated with Collingwood coming over to New Zealand and they being fourth in the SSN competition [Suncorp Super Netball] our ability to be able to withstand the pressure and deliver.

"There's still a long way to go before we can foot it with the Australians at the level that we need to be able to do out on court."

Taurua said the focus was to win the Nations Cup while giving players exposure.

"Without Australia there we have a bit of leeway and a bit of breathing space that we can develop... everyone needs to get out on court."

Taurua is contracted until the end January when she will take time to decide whether to stay on as coach.

Taurua, who has just relocated her family back to New Zealand, said things were becoming clearer.

"It is becoming positive more and more as I'm thinking about things and time will tell as to what I'm going to do, but really happy where I currently am sitting and what I've been able to do so far in the netball world.

"It's good to be on New Zealand soil and even though I'm still working through what I need to do with my family... now that I'm home I can work through those details easier... and find where netball sits so I'm really positive about where things are sitting at the moment and still do want to be involved in netball."

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