25 Aug 2020

Dame Noeline to push hard for Diamonds to come here

4:52 pm on 25 August 2020

Dame Noeline Taurua's priority is for the Silver Ferns to get Tests against Australia by the end of 2020 and she says it makes sense for their arch rivals to come here.

Silver Ferns and Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Noeline Taurua

Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua Photo: © SWpix.com (t/a Photography Hub Ltd)

The Silver Ferns' coach has revealed her new squad of 16 but with Covid-19 having a huge impact on borders, no Test fixtures have been announced.

The annual Constellation Cup series usually sees four matches shared on both sides of the Tasman.

With a trans-Tasman bubble looking unlikely for quite some time the focus has had to shift, with one team needing to go into quarantine.

Netball New Zealand has been in talks with Netball Australia and Dame Noeline would like to see them cross the Tasman.

"My first preference would be trying to woo Australia to come here, feeling that we probably are the safest bet in regards to having the Constellation Cup happening," Dame Noeline said.

"But I still understand the positioning and I think negotiations are still taking place as to what's going to happen with border restrictions and also quarantine process as well. So at the moment both countries are working towards November and the Constellation Cup and that's still a good thing that the intent is still there, so hopefully over the next month we get to the stage where we can play international netball, that's really the priority for me for this year."

Dame Noeline said prior to Covid-19 the original plan was for two Tests in Australia followed by two Tests in New Zealand, but that was no longer practical.

"I suppose Australia are holding to that dearly mainly because of broadcasting funding, sponsors and the requirements they have to meet for their people over in Australia so I understand that but hopefully it's warming towards being in New Zealand. I think it's becoming more clear now that that could be an option, however with the recent lockdown in Auckland that probably doesn't help our situation as well."

Dame Noeline said given the large number of active cases of Covid-19 in Australia compared to the small cluster in New Zealand, it was more logical for the Diamonds to make the trip.

"I think health and well-being is the utmost that we must ensure not only the athletes but also the management are taken care of.

"Personally I feel currently how I've been tracking Australia [the Covid-19 situation there] and even though I know there's a lot riding on Constellation Cup in regards to funding and losing a lot of money that it's a big ask for our athletes and support staff to go to Australia in the current condition that's happening there. So I would push hard that Australia come here, still respecting where they are and what needs to happen for them but I'll definitely push hard that it comes to New Zealand instead of us going there."

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Ameliaranne Ekenasio during last year's Constellation Cup, a fiercely contested series, which was eventually won by Australia. Photo: Photosport

Dame Noeline said there should be an announcement around a Cadbury series soon, which could involve a NZA side and New Zealand men's team playing the Silver Ferns.

"That's probably one of the things that we know that we can lock in, because we have the domestic teams that we can play up against. So it's just now about trying to get the timing right for the Constellation Cup, hoping that it does go through and connecting those two series together so we're in the best possible preparation leading into the Constellation Cup."

Ameliaranne Ekenasio has been confirmed as Silver Ferns' captain and said she was "proud to be leading the team into whatever the year will bring for us ...we'll do the best with whatever we get."

As a result of an increase in COVID-19 positive tests in Victoria, all the Suncorp Super Netball teams had to relocate to a hub in Queensland for the domestic season.

The two Victorian clubs had to serve a 14 day quarantine prior to the start of the season, which is part way through.

So if the Silver Ferns did travel to Australia, not only would they have to go into quarantine, the Diamonds too might have to do the same in a dedicated hub.

If it came to it, is there an appetite among players to go into quarantine for two weeks either side of the Tasman for the sake of a Constellation Cup?

Ekenasio said they would cross that bridge if it came to it.

"I know there's been lots of options put on the table I still think that obviously having Australia come to us is the one that looks the best at the moment. If we did have to go over there it would look like both teams going into quarantine on both sides which probably wouldn't be ideal for the Cup anyway but if that's what had to happen we'd just get to that when it comes around," Ekenasio said.

As for how the Ferns might go against Australia, without the last of their original 'fossils' following the retirement of Laura Langman yesterday, and Maria Folau and Casey Kopua last year, Dame Noeline is both realistic and optimistic.

"When you look at the Test caps that have left us and those three players it's definitely going to take a while and some of our players aren't up to that length of experience or time that they've had in the game. In saying that the likes of Ameliaranne, Gina [Crampton], and also Jane [Watson] I feel are starting to be standouts at a domestic level in their own clubs.

"And what I've seen over the last couple of series, for example the January series in England which the Silver Ferns won they were standouts in that as well so I just sort of feel the mantle has been passed on to others and I have no doubt that those players plus also the ones that are coming in for the current Silver Ferns will pick it up and play at a high level as what is expected."