28 Oct 2020

Odds stacked against England Roses

6:13 am on 28 October 2020

International netball is back but it could be a one-sided series as the world champion Silver Ferns host the England Roses in Hamilton.

England v New Zealand 2019 Netball World Cup.

England v New Zealand 2019 Netball World Cup. Photo: Photosport

The opening game of the Taini Jamison Trophy series is the first international match to be played anywhere in the world since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the England Roses will face an uphill battle against the Silver Ferns.

Without their coach, who tested positive for Covid-19 before the team left England, and missing some of their big name players the Roses are the undoubted underdogs.

The England squad have not played any competitive netball for seven months after the pandemic shutdown their domestic Super League competition.

The Roses most capped player Jade Clarke said England's top players had to get their netball fix by watching their opposition playing in the ANZ Premiership on TV while they sat on the sidelines.

"When we were in lockdown the ANZ Premiership was the only women's sport that was on at all so we were all glued to our screens watching the league and I thought it was absolutely fantastic so we absolutely loved watching," Clarke said.

"New Zealand has really been leading the way in keeping women's sport going and getting it on TV for the whole world to see which I think is absolutely amazing."

While in quarantine in Christchurch the 16-strong Roses squad were again spectators as their opposition sharpened up against the New Zealand Men, New Zealand A and the New Zealand under-21 team in the Cadbury Series in Palmerston North last week.

Clarke said the series showed the depth of talent in New Zealand netball and she hoped England could eventually replicate that.

"It's like you couldn't pick who was going to get into the 12 [for the Silver Ferns] and we were trying to guess and you just couldn't guess because there is so much competition and I think that's great for world netball and that's what we are trying to do right now with our young players is when the Suncorp Super Netball players come back to the Roses we want there to be so much competition and just raise the standard really."

Jade Clark, England Roses.

Jade Clarke Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While the Roses have had plenty of opportunities to scout the Silver Ferns, New Zealand midcourter Shannon Saunders said how the visitors would play was a bit of an unknown.

"We haven't seen them play since January when we played them so we don't really have any idea what to expect or what they've been working on," Saunders said.

"After the first Test I think we'll have a bit of a better idea but to be honest I don't really know what's going to happen."

Match fitness could be the telling difference between the sides during the series.

"You can train as much as you want but it's not quite the same as the intensity of match fitness," Saunders said.

"We are definitely lucky in that we've been able to have matches and I think especially with the quick turnaround, playing every second day, that will come into it a wee bit."

Despite the Roses' unusual preparation Clarke was not going to make excuses.

"For us as players you can't let it effect your confidence that we haven't had those matches and you've just got to really take the positives from the practice matches and training sessions that you've had and it's really a test of your self belief and self confidence and giving each other that confidence that we are ready," Clarke said.

"We might not have had as many games but we are ready to go and we're well-seasoned athletes and we've been playing for years and we can't just let a few months knock us off our track."

2019 World Cup semi-final New Zealand vs England, Liverpool, England.


Due to player unavailability the Roses named six players with 10 or fewer international test appearances in their touring squad.

Midcourter Imogen Allison, 22, is one of the young players getting an opportunity on this tour while the Roses players plying their trade in the Australian domestic series take a break.

Allison is the only uncapped player with the squad and she said getting selected for her first senior tour during such an uncertain time was touch and go.

"Getting selected for this was such a huge step for me personally and then just hoping that the Covid tests went to plan, which they did in the end, so it was such a relief once we'd got through the first few tests and then being able to come out here it began to feel more real."

The Silver Ferns also have one new player in their 12-strong side with shooter Monica Falkner getting a recall after a 15-month injury layoff.