Taurua limits UK series aims
Two out of three wins in Quad Series will suffice for Silver Ferns coach as she strives to repair battered brand
he mere fact Noeline Taurua is prepared to be satisfied with two wins from three matches in the Northern Quad Series illustrates the nature of her rebuild job.
Not so long ago the Silver Ferns would walk into a series such as this — the three-test examination against hosts England, Australia and South Africa in Liverpool and London over the next week — with the belief, if not expectation, they would emerge victorious.
Instead, after a year in which the Ferns won eight of 21 tests and fell to one of their lowest ebbs, expectations have swiftly been redefined.
Two wins from seven under Taurua is hardly a glowing start but it also reflects the shattered group she inherited.
The Netball World Cup, six months away in Liverpool, is the ultimate aim; where judgment will be passed on whether Taurua delivers on her longheld promise or not.
She knows this. Between now and then, Taurua continues the task of restoring pride to the black dress.
Watching the Ferns capitulate at last year’s Commonwealth Games, where they failed to win a medal for the first time, Taurua thought she knew what needed to change.
Involved as a player and assistant coach previously, she had clear comparisons. Yet it was only after assuming the reins that the true depth of the problems facing New Zealand netball were revealed.
“Not until you get in there do you know the reality,” Taurua, the successful Magic and Sunshine Coast Lightning mentor,said after her 12-strong squad touched down in England.
“We have to prioritise the areas we have to work on instead of trying to save the world. This tour is really important for us. I’ve had different personnel over the last three series and I’ve got a better handle on all those players who will be available for the Worlds.
“This tour is about us putting some wins on the board and putting out a game that’s as dominant as we can. That’s going to be a big measure as to what 2019 is going to be for us.”
This Quad Series may provide the yardstick but there is little time to make any advances.
Once the Ferns return home, they have only the domestic season and three Taini Jamison tests — against yet-to-be-confirmed opposition — before the World Cup. And vast improvements need to be seen now.
“When you put numbers out there, you put yourself on the line but if we can come out with two out of three wins here I will be really happy. But if we put out a level of dominance and learn from what we experienced in the Quad and Constellation Cup of last year — and we’re very clear about what those lessons are within the team — and we show improvement, I will be happy as well.
“We have to put something out there that shows we’re in contention for Worlds, not only for the opposition but more for ourselves in regards to our own confidence and knowing we are progressing.
“I’ve put out there within the team, two out of three. Obviously there’s a question, why not three out of three? We haven’t beaten England since I’ve been around, we’ve only beaten Australia once, so we need to get one of those scalps to meet that objective and we need to be able to put ourselves under pressure.”
Taurua shoots from the hip and isn’t afraid to make tough decisions as she seeks to raise standards and create internal competition.
She widened the net in December to stage old school trials where reputations counted for little.
Veteran defender Katrina Rore, who fronted the emotionallydraining Games campaign, was the major casualty for this series but after poor shooting performances, eyebrows were also raised with only Maria Folau, Maia Wilson and Ameliaranne Ekenasio included in this squad.
“Those three shooters were able to consistently do their job and have high percentages. The challenge now is whether they can do that in real time and we will find that out. We went with three because they were the only three that were able to do their job. I wasn’t prepared to take people who couldn’t shoot and percentages were low, hence the three shooters.
“Katrina is definitely still an option for us and ANZ for her will be a good opportunity to see what she looks like when she goes back into Pulse.”
The trial Taurua describes as physically, mentally and emotionally taxing saw bolters emerge.
One fewer shooter opened up the midcourt where 21-year-old Tactix rookie Kimiora Poi forced her way in. Ditto defenders Karin Burger and Erena Mikaere, the latter also set to debut.
Overall the squad contains a blend of experience in Folau, Casey Kopua and Laura Langman, and raw talent.
Expect to see an aggressive, expansive, free-flowing style with the onus put on the five fast, fit midcourters to make the most of turnovers and take the ball to their shooters at speed.
“Everyone will get that opportunity — it’s up to them whether they can take it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing those debuts. It’s always a good thing. When I look at the make-up of our team we’ve got some of the older players who can provide that stability and are wily but we’ve also got the younger ones who can be around for four, five, six years so it’s an opportune time for some of these players to be involved in the tour now.”
In many respects Taurua is driving a more ruthless culture. That starts with selection. From day one messaging has been clear — take chances or you won’t make the cut.
“Once we finish this Quad series everyone goes back into the pool and they have to perform back in the ANZ Premiership.
“The ones who will be there will be the ones who stand up.”
Liam Napier Coach Noeline Taurua has set modest goals as she leads the Silver Ferns into a Quad Series against England, Australia and South Africa in Britain, starting today.