Silver Ferns midcourter Laura Langman hopes New Zealand’s new-found unpredictablity will keep a new-look Australia guessing when the two teams clash in Christchurch on Wednesday.
It is the first time the teams have met since Australia regained their No 1 ranking after downing New Zealand 42-38 in last November’s world championship final.
The memory of that loss still rankles with Langman, at 22 one of the most experienced players in the Silver Ferns behind captain Julie Seymour, goal shoot Irene van Dyk and defender Sheryl Scanlan.
“It’s really gutting not to be on the right side of the ledger in a game like the world championships,” she said.
“But you really do learn a lot from a loss, and how to do things differently.”
One of the lessons learnt has been in the importance of controlling the game and keeping the supremely confident Australians guessing.
New Zealand coach Ruth Aitken goes into this week’s two-test series with a wide range of options in her 12-strong squad, thanks largely to 17 weeks of the trans-Tasman netball league earlier this year.
“I think we are less predictable — we have mega options in all areas of court, and that’s great because we have the ability to expose more players to top international netball.
“It’ll keep the Aussies guessing, which will be fantastic,” Langman said.
Van Dyk surprised with some authoritative performances at goal attack for the Bay of Plenty Magic towards the business end of the trans-Tasman league, when she swapped positions with New Zealand teammate Maria Tutaia.
And Langman herself, originally a wing defence, also spent the later stages of the league playing for the Magic in the wing attack’s bib instead of her customary position at centre.
When it comes to defence, Aitken has options with towering goal defence Leana de Bruin able to combat an aerial game, while Joline Henry and Scanlan provide an alternative to the short, sharp, fast-passing game.
Casey Williams, an absolute given at goal-keep, seems eminently capable of thwarting any type of game the Australians care to throw at her.
New Silver Ferns captain Seymour, who has taken over the leadership reins after Adine Wilson stood down to start a family, is looking forward to throwing a few curve balls at the Australians this week.
“We’ve got the players that, when we change people on court, our style changes a bit more than perhaps you’d find in Australia,” Seymour said.
“We’ve got the tall shooters like Daneka Wipiiti and Irene van Dyk, and they play a different game when you get a Maria Tutaia or a Paula Griffin on court.
“It’s the same in the defensive circle — you’ve got someone like Sheryl Scanlan that’s slightly shorter, so plays a very low-to-the-ground type game, or you throw someone else on like Leana de Bruin, whose much taller and plays that aerial game.
“We’ve probably got more variety, I guess.”
With the newly named Australian Diamonds missing front-line shooters Sharelle McMahon and Natalie Medhurst, the Silver Ferns have their best chance for some time to record a win in Christchurch on Wednesday or in Auckland on Saturday.