Ameliaranne Wells is only change to Silver Ferns squad to play Australia
The last one was probably the easiest for Waimarama Taumaunu.
The outgoing Silver Ferns coach has agonised over a few squads during her tenure, but not the one for this month’s four-test Constellation Cup series against Australia.
Maria Tutaia, who made herself unavailable, was the only member of New Zealand’s Netball World Cup squad not to be retained. Grace Rasmussen, Malia Paseka and Cathrine Latu were among those to audition at goal attack during this week’s national trials, only for Ameliaranne Wells to emerge as the star performer in that role.
Jodi Brown will still get the first crack at the Diamonds when the series begins in Christchurch on October 20, but Taumaunu believes Wells represents New Zealand’s future in the goal attack position.
The criticism of Wells has been that, despite having what Taumaunu described as “beautiful shot,” she hasn’t had the accuracy to match. That’ll come, apparently.
“Those are the sorts of developments that need to happen and, if that does happen, then I believe the rest of her game is strong enough that she’ll be a really key part of this team going forward,” Taumaunu said.
In the short-term, she has great faith in Brown to do her usual admirable job.
“But I think we’ve got an opportunity to try and develop a goal attack that isn’t Maria and it’s important that we do that and that’s the challenge of this tour. And it’s a huge one, because Maria was such an integral part of our World Cup campaign,” said Taumaunu.
Had it been a goal shoot the Silver Ferns needed, rather than a goal attack, then Latu might’ve made the squad. But her lack of experience in that position counted against her, not any lack of training in the time since she was left out of the World Cup squad.
“I thought she’d done a lot of work so, in terms of all the areas we asked her to work on, she has made improvements,” Taumaunu said.
Those that did make this squad can’t stand still, either. The team gained ground, both on the court and in the public’s estimation, during the World Cup. But memories of that will fade very quickly if the Constellation Cup isn’t a contest.
Taumaunu doubts these Silver Ferns will go backwards.
“We’re not jumping out of our socks the way we were leading into the World Cup but considering we lost and considering how huge that disappointment was, I’m actually really pleased with both the physical and mental shape people have turned up in.
“The result [of the series] is less important than continuing to see progress and that’s really important for people like Bailey [Mes] and Malia. People remember them fondly from the World Cup, but they’ve just taken baby steps. There’s a long way to go yet and they know that.”
Australia played a ferocious brand of netball in the World Cup final, which they won 58-55, and Taumaunu expects similar over the next few weeks. The challenge for the Silver Ferns will be to combat that better than they did two months ago.
After Christchurch, the series moves to Auckland on October 22, Melbourne on October 25 and finally Perth on October 30, which will be Taumaunu’s last test in charge.
New Zealand squad to play Australia: Casey Kopua (captain), Katrina Grant, Leana de Bruin, Phoenix Karaka, Kayla Cullen, Laura Langman, Shannon Francois, Grace Rasmussen, Ameliaranne Wells, Jodi Brown, Malia Paseka, Bailey Mes.