Positive start to new era for Silver Ferns
In the wake of winning the early-season inaugural Vitality Netball Nations Cup, the Silver Ferns have taken encouraging steps to highlight the start of a new era.
Following their stunning win in last year’s Netball World Cup, the Silver Ferns were without four of their stalwarts for the Nations Cup which included England, Jamaica and South Africa in a heavyweight contest between the world’s second, third, fourth and fifth-ranked teams.
Without the experienced Laura Langman and Katrina Rore (on a sabbatical break) and the retired Casey Kopua and Maria Folau, there was a sense of the unknown when the Silver Ferns ventured to the UK minus 562 Test caps.
However, the new-look Silver Ferns, who were reduced to just 10 players for the tournament after defender Michaela Sokolich-Beatson and shooter Bailey Mes were left side-lined by injury, delivered plenty of positive signs from their successful campaign.
Stylish shooter Ameliaranne Ekenasio revelled in her new role as captain, young guns in shooter Maia Wilson and midcourters Whitney Souness and Kimiora Poi made telling use of their opportunities while overall the team responded with suitable poise to all the variables thrown their way to go through unbeaten.
That included a serious challenge in the final against a rejuvenated Jamaica to which the Silver Ferns responded like seasoned veterans.
“You take none of this for granted and for us to come out with a win (in the final) while getting a lot of our players out on court, I’m really pleased about that,” coach Dame Noeline Taurua said.
“That’s definitely a tick for us, is a great starting point and sets us up nicely for 2020. With a depleted squad, we had to juggle things a bit but I have learnt a lot about the strengths of individuals.
“I was really pleased with Ameliaranne’s captaincy. In the final when things were going toe-to toe, she took on the load, put the pressure shots up and did the simple things well while behind the scenes, she’s got everyone humming.”
Ekenasio said there was some uncertainty ahead of the tour about how things would unfold on-court but with the first game under their belts, there was no looking back.
“We built from there, had a few little rocky patches along the way but that’s been good for us. In some ways we had to come down to come back up again,” she said in reference to the low-scoring game against South Africa.
“I’m just so happy with all of the young ones we’ve been able to bring through in this tournament. Noels (Taurua) has done an amazing job with them and I couldn’t be prouder of how they just stood up and gave it a real good crack.”
The growing maturity of Wilson was an individual highlight of the tournament, the young shooter blossoming after biding her time in the wings, gaining deserved recognition with two player of the match performances, including the final, where she played her first full match for the Silver Ferns while also posting her highest goal tally of 44, to surpass the 42 she scored against Jamaica in the round robin.
“It’s been a real whirlwind and I’ve been really grateful just to get out on court,” Wilson said.
“I’ve been in the squad for about four years and had a few minutes here and there, so to be able to get out there and start and play a full 60 minutes, I’m really proud of.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that my time would come. I’m only 22 and now my time has come so hopefully I will be around for a little while. The challenge is to get out there and keep testing myself.”