Wai Taumaunu says Silve Ferns must adapt quicker to umpiring and physicality

A dockyard brawl at one end and a tea party at the other.

Some people might characterise the shooting circles during the first quarter of August’s Netball World Cup final differently but, to many New Zealand eyes, that’s what it looked like.

Australia held a 16-7 lead after those initial 15 minutes and held on to win 58-55. Netball might be a 60-minute game, but it was in the first quarter that the final was won and lost.

At one end, you had Silver Ferns goal shoot Bailey Mes getting clobbered but no whistle sounding. While at the opposite end New Zealand defenders Katrina Grant and Casey Kopua getting blown up for everything.

The teams now resume hostilities in Christchurch next Tuesday, to start the four-test Constellation Cup series. Gary Burgess and Dave Brown were umpires for the World Cup final, with Brown now one of the three appointed to the series.

That’s significant when you consider why Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu believes the team were beaten in that final.

“It was a combination of factors and in the end we were taken by surprise by two things: the physicality that the Australians brought and the tightness we found our defenders umpired with one at end,” Taumaunu said.

“Those things sound quite small but, when you’re playing a team as good as Australia, they can be quite big and I think we took too long to adjust.”

The Silver Ferns assemble in Christchurch on Saturday, where they won’t shy away from revisiting those aspects of the final.

“No, they’re definitely two things that we will reflect upon quite strongly,” said Taumaunu.

“The really strong physical start by Australia, certainly from their perspective, would have to be seen to have been effective and we’ve got the same umpire from the World Cup.”

Taumaunu has watched the World Cup final over and over and said the team simply couldn’t escape from what happened in the first quarter. Their fault or not, the Silver Ferns didn’t match the level that Australia played at and left themselves too much ground to recover.

“Our shooting accuracy rate was 50 per cent, their’s was 100. We created two fewer attempts than than did and scored half, so we had 14 [attempts] and they had 16,” Taumaunu said.

The scoreboard pressure led to turnovers at the centre pass, allied to a late recognition by the players that they needed to call time and halt Australia’s momentum.

From the first quarter on, Taumaunu felt New Zealand’s game “held up well.”

Thanks in no small way to the bravery of Mes and fellow shooter Maria Tutaia. Mes copped a barrage, in her role as the designated rebounder, while Tutaia courageously kept putting up shots from everywhere.

Tutaia ended up attempting 53 of of New Zealand’s 75 shots, making 38. Jodi Brown will get first crack at goal attack but it’s going to take a collective effort to muster 53 attempts, particularly from the range Tutaia launches them.

“We’re not going to get another Maria, just as we weren’t going to get another Irene [van Dyk],” Taumaunu said.

“They either have to [shoot from distance] or they have to work to get a shorter shot. There’s different ways of playing goal attack and Maria’s one is lovely to watch, there’s no doubt about that, but there are different ways of doing it and creating a shorter shot is one.”

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