The Silver Ferns have taken little solace from England’s customary demise against world champions Australia, predicting the third-ranked netballing nation will pose challenges when their test series starts in Auckland on Monday.
Australia completed a 2-0 series win in Adelaide on Wednesday night, a 43-33 triumph following their 42-39 victory in the first test.
It was England’s 37th consecutive loss to the Australians, and 48th in 49 clashes overall.
Although the margin blew out in Adelaide — and Australian coach Norma Plummer did not have recuperating shooters Sharelle McMahon and Catherine Cox available — the Silver Ferns’ management and players still reckoned the English would test them before their own two-test series across the Tasman.
Coach Ruth Aitken pointed out first choice goal attack Pamela Cookey would finally be freed from the work commitments that prevented her playing Australia, while the defensive combination of Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma were more than capable of disrupting the Ferns’ supply lines to the goal circle.
Mentor and Mkoloma bustled Australia’s second choice shooters Natalie Medhurst and Susan Pratley into errors last night, albeit to no avail, and they are also familiar with New Zealand’s shooting arsenal having played in the ANZ Championship for Adelaide Thunderbirds and Central Pulse respectively.
Cookey looms as a key addition in the attacking circle where she is expected to reunite with Louisa Brownfield — the combination on court when England shocked the Ferns 50-45 at home last May.
“She is their number one goal attack, and changes their whole dynamic,” said Silver Ferns’ ace shooter Irene van Dyk.
“She was amazing against us last year and at the world championships. When she’s in the circle (with Brownfield), they are just phenomenal — they knowing exactly where the other one is.”
Van Dyk was also lavish in her praise of Mentor and Mkoloma, who present a contrasting aerial challenge to the Australians.
“They’re taller and they’re very rangy,” said van Dyk, who is still coming to terms with her goal attack role.
“Your movements have to be bigger — you can’t do short movements against them. Our movement in the circle will have to be sharp and accurate.”
“They’ve got long levers (arms) and are very athletic into the ball. That’s quite challenging and we have a lot to get sorted.”
She was also aware the last time the teams met England won for only the second time in 67 tests — though doubted it would play a major part in the build-up.
“It’s a new team but the players that were there hurt,” she said.
“They will remember that and I’m sure it’ll be passed along.”
Meanwhile, Aitken was coy about how she would juggle her resources over a tough schedule of three tests in six days.
“It’ll be great to be able to get more players out there for a bit longer but we still want to keep our structure,” she said when asked if young shooters Daneka Wipiiti and Paula Griffin might log more court time.
“Maria (Tutaia) and Irene are really just a new international combination too,” she said.
England’s coach Sue Hawkins, an Australian who has coached Auckland, was encouraged by her team’s performance before they left Adelaide.
“What we take away from this series, is we have to be much tougher and stronger. Our game is about ball speed and letting it go and they just need some confidence about what they can do.”
The first test at Vector Arena is followed by the second in Dunedin on Wednesday and final instalment in Palmerston North on Saturday.