Southby makes bold changes

The Southland Times - - SPORT - BREN­DON EGAN

Sil­ver Ferns coach Ja­nine Southby in­sists the Com­mon­wealth Games se­lec­tion door re­mains ajar for un­wanted duo Jane Wat­son and Grace Ras­mussen.

Wat­son and Ras­mussen’s omis­sion from the 12-strong squad for next month’s four-match Con­stel­la­tion Cup se­ries against Aus­tralia was the ma­jor talk­ing point of Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment.

Vet­eran wing at­tack Ras­mussen was overlooked in favour of 21-year-old Cen­tral Pulse mid­courter Whit­ney Souness, who de­buted against South Africa dur­ing last month’s Quad Se­ries. Ras­mussen’s fu­ture in the black dress looks un­cer­tain and she faces a huge chal­lenge to win back her spot be­fore April’s Com­mon­wealth Games on the Gold Coast.

De­fender Wat­son, who was the MVP of the in­au­gu­ral na­tional premier­ship, paid the price for a quiet Quad Se­ries, where she strug­gled to make an im­pact.

Wat­son has been over­taken in the goal keep peck­ing or­der by her Main­land Tac­tix team-mate for next sea­son, Te­mal­isi Faka­hoko­tau. Af­ter a three year hia­tus from in­ter­na­tional net­ball, Faka­hoko­tau was highly im­pres­sive in the 2-1 Taini Jami­son Tro­phy se­ries win over Eng­land and de­served her spot.

De­fender Phoenix Karaka, who fea­tured in the Quad Se­ries, but not the Taini Jami­son Tro­phy, and un­capped shooter Mon­ica Falkner, also missed the Con­stel­la­tion Cup squad.

The Sil­ver Ferns se­lec­tors were keen to give Faka­hoko­tau a shot against Aus­tralia, given Wat­son and Karaka have both had court­time against the Di­a­monds in past se­ries. Faka­hoko­tau will back up Kelly Jury at goal keep.

Wat­son, Ras­mussen and Karaka’s omis­sion was purely form-re­lated and Southby said there were no con­cerns over a lack of fit­ness.

Southby stressed there would be op­por­tu­ni­ties for play­ers, who weren’t se­lected, to put their case for­ward be­fore the Com­mon­wealth Games.

The Sil­ver Ferns will com­pete in the Quad Se­ries in South Africa and Eng­land in Jan­uary-early Fe­bru­ary. A Taini Jami­son Tro­phy home se­ries against a yet to be con­firmed Com­mon­wealth op­po­nent is ex­pected to be held in March too.

‘‘There’ll be some very dis­ap­pointed squad mem­bers, but the mes­sage to them is it’s not the end of the world and there’s still a lot of se­ries to go and it’s only one se­ries,’’ Southby said.

‘‘The tough part of all of this is, the play­ers that aren’t com­ing on this se­ries aren’t nec­es­sar­ily do­ing a lot of things wrong. We’re still look­ing at lots of dif­fer­ent op­tions and we’re still build­ing depth.’’

Souness pro­vides the Sil­ver Ferns with an al­ter­na­tive at cen­tre, a po­si­tion they are ea­ger to bol­ster, given Shan­non Fran­cois played ex­ten­sive min­utes there in the Quad Se­ries and Taini Jami­son Tro­phy.

Wing de­fence Sa­man­tha Sin­clair and Souness will of­fer cover in the po­si­tion.

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