Stars need to fire for Sil­ver Ferns

Waikato Times - - Sport - BREN­DON EGAN

Star­ing down the bar­rel of a Con­stel­la­tion Cup clean sweep, coach Ja­nine Southby is adamant she’s got the best net­ballers in the coun­try in the Sil­ver Ferns squad.

New Zealand’s strug­gles in the an­nual se­ries con­tin­ued in Ade­laide on Wednesday night, be­ing out­gunned 55-43 to hand the Di­a­monds an unas­sail­able 3-0 lead and the sil­ver­ware for a fifth straight year.

The Sil­ver Ferns have just pride to play for in the fi­nal match in Syd­ney to­mor­row after an­other for­get­table per­for­mance, which in­cluded an alarm­ing 41 turnovers.

After last month’s mem­o­rable 57-47 Quad Se­ries vic­tory over Aus­tralia in In­ver­cargill, the Sil­ver Ferns headed into the Con­stel­la­tion Cup op­ti­mistic of claim­ing the tro­phy for the first time since 2012.

They have been hugely dis­ap­point­ing and just six months out from the Com­mon­wealth Games on the Gold Coast, have a plethora of is­sues to deal with.

Of most con­cern is the in­con­sis­tent show­ings from se­nior play­ers Maria Tu­taia, Shan­non Fran­cois and skip­per Ka­t­rina Grant, who cre­ated greater im­pact in Ade­laide, and the amount of pos­ses­sion be­ing tossed away.

Southby was un­wa­ver­ing in her view they had the strong­est pos­si­ble squad avail­able. Play­ers needed to show they could match it with Aus­tralia for 60 min­utes and start de­liv­er­ing.

‘‘I be­lieve we’ve got the play­ers, who can do this, but they’re not show­ing the be­lief in them­selves at the mo­ment.

‘‘Over­all, ev­ery­one needs to step up. They’re all ca­pa­ble and they’re all much bet­ter than what they’re show­ing.’’

Southby has showed loy­alty to

her start­ing seven, us­ing the same play­ers in all three losses, but her pa­tience must be wear­ing thin.

She de­fended her de­ci­sion not to make changes early in the sec­ond quar­ter when Aus­tralia went on a 12-4 run to open up a 24-14 ad­van­tage, hop­ing her front­line play­ers would set­tle.

Mid­way through the term, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Kayla Cullen and Te­mal­isi Faka­hoko­tau were all in­jected into the game, but the dam­age had been done.

Faka­hoko­tau and Selby-Rickit have had their mo­ments off the bench in the se­ries and must be push­ing for a start. Start­ing wing de­fence Sa­man­tha Sin­clair has im­pressed when given a chance at cen­tre and it wouldn’t be a sur­prise to see changes made for the dead rub­ber.

After trail­ing 30-19 at half­time, fol­low­ing a dread­ful sec­ond quar­ter, the Sil­ver Ferns played their finest net­ball of the se­ries in the third term. They won the quar­ter 15-8 to trim Aus­tralia’s lead to 38-34 en­ter­ing the fi­nal 15 min­utes be­fore ugly mis­takes on at­tack resur­faced.

Their care­less turnover rate (they com­mit­ted 25 in the first half and 41 for the game) was un­ac­cept­able at in­ter­na­tional level. Sev­eral were ba­sic held ball, step­ping or break­ing calls from se­nior play­ers, who should know bet­ter.

‘‘I don’t think the plan Aus­tralia has played with has changed dra­mat­i­cally and we know they’re al­ways going to be in our face.

‘‘We’ve got to get a lot bet­ter at ab­sorb­ing the pres­sure and still mak­ing good de­ci­sions.’’

A rare pos­i­tive for the Sil­ver Ferns was their de­fen­sive im­prove­ment, pick­ing up a steady sup­ply of Aus­tralian turnover ball, which was squan­dered right back.

Against a ruth­less Di­a­monds side, it was piv­otal any ex­tra ball they re­ceived, they scored from, which wasn’t hap­pen­ing.

‘‘That’s killing us,’’ Southby said. ‘‘The quar­ters we do [cap­i­talise off turnover ball] we do re­ally well.’’

Te­mal­isi Faka­hoko­tau again added im­pact off the bench for the Sil­ver Ferns in game three in Ade­laide.

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