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It took Laura Lang­man just 15 min­utes to ad­just to life as an in­ter­na­tional net­baller when she made her de­but in 2005. And de­spite her 141 tests, and a raft of awards and ti­tles since, the sea­soned mid­courter ex­pects it will take that long when she slips on the black dress for the first time in more than two years against Eng­land this af­ter­noon.

Banned from rep­re­sent­ing her coun­try after com­mit­ting to play in Aus­tralia’s Su­per Net­ball com­pe­ti­tion in 2016, Lang­man re­ceived an in­ter­na­tional life­line last month when she was granted a oneyear exemption and named in the 2018/19 Ferns squad at the be­hest of new Ferns coach Noe­line Tau­rua.

Then, to top it all off, on Thurs­day af­ter­noon she was named as Ka­t­rina Grant’s re­place­ment as Ferns cap­tain, be­ing se­lected for the top role by her team­mates.

“It’s been a bit of a whirl­wind ride but [I’m] re­ally ex­cited and ex­tremely hum­bled to have been given the nod,” Lang­man told the Weekend Her­ald.

“Not many peo­ple get a sec­ond chance. “It’s def­i­nitely ex­cit­ing, what I feel is quite spe­cial this time around is you’re here, you’ve gained all this ex­pe­ri­ence, but you still have the body that’s will­ing to do it. I’m re­ally grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity.”

It has been quite a ride for Lang­man, who first made head­lines when she was named in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic team at the ten­der age of 16 to play in the for­mer transtas­man ANZ Cham­pi­onship.

Less than a year later, the prodigy was se­lected for the New Zealand un­der-21 side, be­fore be­ing el­e­vated to the Ferns squad were she set the scene for what be­came an in­cred­i­ble in­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

But the 32-year-old’s net­ball fu­ture was put in doubt when she was con­tro­ver­sially barred from Ferns se­lec­tion after join­ing long-time men­tor Tau­rua at the Sun­shine Coast Light­ning.

After help­ing lead the fran­chise to a ti­tle in its de­but year, Lang­man sud­denly called time on her two-year con­tract to step away from the sport and re­turn to New Zealand.

Although sig­nalling her avail­abil­ity and in­ter­est to play for the Ferns again, Lang­man was snubbed by Net­ball NZ as the na­tional body stood firmly by their se­lec­tion cri­te­ria.

Since Lang­man’s ini­tial de­par­ture, the Ferns had fallen fur­ther into a down­ward spi­ral — which seem­ingly started with the ap­point­ment of for­mer Ferns coach Ja­nine Southby, who re­signed in July after a damn­ing re­view from Net­ball NZ pin­pointed sev­eral is­sues with her coach­ing style and lead­er­ship.

After suf­fer­ing a shock de­feat to Ja­maica to lose the Taini Jami­son Tro­phy for the first time, the Ferns slumped to a hor­ror fourth place fin­ish at the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games this year.

Yet, the Ferns’ fall on the in­ter­na­tional stage was far from sur­pris­ing.

Fans and for­mer play­ers alike had des­per­ately called for Lang­man’s se­lec­tion, and Lang­man re­vealed that Net­ball NZ had in­deed been in talks with her be­fore the Ferns’ failed Games cam­paign but she be­lieved the tim­ing wasn’t right.

Whether it was tim­ing or a lack of faith in Southby, Lang­man was quick to jump on the band­wagon again when talks of Tau­rua’s re­cent ap­point­ment first emerged.

Granted a one-year exemption by Net­ball NZ to play in Aus­tralia while re­main­ing el­i­gi­ble for New Zealand se­lec­tion, Lang­man was fi­nally given the nod to re­turn to the black dress last month.

De­spite some crit­i­cism that her re­turn along­side fel­low vet­eran Casey Kopua would block the path­way for up­com­ing Kiwi tal­ent in the squad, the mid­courter backed her de­ci­sion and has since been rel­ish­ing be­ing back on deck.

“There have been lots of mo­ments just walk­ing into camp and onto court were I just can’t be­lieve I’m back,” Lang­man said dur­ing a Sil­ver Ferns train­ing camp this week.

“When you get back into an en­vi­ron­ment like this, the heart starts pump­ing and the pas­sion comes back.”

With ap­pear­ances at three Net­ball World Cups and three Com­mon­wealth Games, it didn’t come as a sur­prise that Lang­man was de­scribed as the loud­est voice in the room just 48 hours into the Ferns’ train­ing camp.

Lang­man, who is just five tests away from pass­ing Irene van Dyk as the most­capped Sil­ver Fern, brings ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence to the side, along with an in­flu­en­tial com­pet­i­tive tem­per­a­ment that wasn’t over­looked by her peers.

Elected to lead the ail­ing side into bat­tle by her fel­low team­mates and of­fi­cials through an un­con­ven­tional 3-2-1 vot­ing sys­tem, Lang­man will cap­tain the na­tional side un­til the end of the Con­stel­la­tion Cup in Oc­to­ber be­fore the roles are re­viewed, and pos­si­bly reap­pointed, ahead of next year’s Net­ball World Cup.

Although firmly be­liev­ing that there were other play­ers bet­ter suited to the role than her­self, Lang­man was hon­oured to be named the “des­ig­nated coin tosser” and felt com­fort­able with the new load which had been placed on her shoul­ders ahead of her re­turn.

“I think it’s an op­por­tu­nity for [Ka­t­rina] and I to de­velop the lead­ers of the fu­ture. It’s a real hon­our to be given the nod, es­pe­cially from my peers,” she said.

“I feel like I have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the ex­pec­ta­tions of this role. I think the strength in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion is the strength of the team and I feel like ev­ery­one’s con­tribut­ing. It’ll just be the coin toss, I need to nail that.”

Although Tau­rua’s col­lec­tive ap­proach was re­ceived with some con­tro­versy, the new head coach said she be­lieved it was the best ap­proach for the team — con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances of such a lim­ited and de­mand­ing turn­around.

Un­doubt­edly chuffed with her team’s choice, how­ever, Tau­rua be­lieved Lang­man would set the stan­dard within the Sil­ver Ferns.

“Laura’s come out on top and she’s got the vot­ing of her peers and I think that’s a mas­sive way for her to en­ter not only into the job but the first test,” Tau­rua said.

“I know Laura is and does set the stan­dard of what it is to be a high-per­for­mance ath­lete both on and off the court — but also [her] in­ten­sity, pas­sion, [and] lead­er­ship skills are go­ing to be what the Sil­ver Ferns need.

“With peo­ple like Laura at the helm, she epit­o­mises those stan­dards, she lives to those stan­dards, and she will set the stan­dard within the squad . . . hav­ing her as a piece of the puz­zle is mas­sive for us.”

With a stun­ning track record — hav­ing not missed a sin­gle Sil­ver Ferns test in the 11 years be­fore her Aus­tralian ex­o­dus — all eyes will be on Lang­man to­day with the skip­per ex­pected to be on the court for the full 60 min­utes of the opener against Eng­land.

Be­fore the Ferns met Eng­land last Au­gust, the Roses had man­aged just four wins in 87 at­tempts against New Zealand. In their six meet­ings since, they’ve won four, in­clud­ing a dom­i­nant 54-45 vic­tory at the Com­mon­wealth Games.

And since suf­fer­ing their first ca­su­alty ear­lier this week with tena­cious de­fender Te­mal­isi Faka­hoko­tau ruled out with a rup­tured ACL, the new lead­ers of the Ferns have been care­ful about promis­ing a Sil­ver Ferns come­back too soon.

For her part, Lang­man in­sists she is no sil­ver bul­let for the Ferns’ prob­lems, and ar­gues it will take time for the side to rise back through the ranks.

“I know I’ve got a lot of

I’ve got a lot of work to do and I need to do my own job so I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting out there. Laura Lang­man

work to do per­son­ally and first and fore­most I need to do my own job so I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting out there,” Lang­man said.

“I think it’s about be­ing re­al­is­tic, in­di­vid­u­ally we’ve all taken dif­fer­ent jour­neys to get to here . . . com­ing up against the [Com­mon­wealth Games] gold medal­lists is no easy task. I think for us it’s not about what hap­pens, but how we re­act.

“Ev­ery­one’s in agree­ment that we want to be bet­ter than we were the day be­fore and that’s no dif­fer­ent for my­self.” No mat­ter what the re­sult, Lang­man’s re­turn will be re­mem­bered as a mon­u­men­tal mo­ment in Net­ball NZ his­tory — even if it takes her more than 15 min­utes to find her groove.

Photo / Pho­to­sport Photo / Pho­to­sport

Laura Lang­man is ready to leap back into ac­tion for the Sil­ver Ferns to­day. Lang­man is grate­ful for the chance to again rep­re­sent the Sil­ver Ferns.

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