Madison Robinson of the Diamonds and Anna Harrison of the Silver Ferns compete for the ball during game one of the Constellation Cup series at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.
Madison Robinson of the Diamonds and Anna Harrison of the Silver Ferns compete for the ball during game one of the Constellation Cup series at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Mark Kolbe

Silver Ferns out to take shine off Diamonds

NETBALL: New Zealand coach Janine Southby wants her team to play for the full four quarters when it goes up against the Diamonds in Launceston tomorrow night.

The Silver Ferns outscored Australia in the fourth quarter of the first Constellation Cup clash in Sydney on Sunday 18-14 but lost the contest 68-56.

The Kiwis could not contain goal shooter Caitlin Bassett who was perfect in scoring 53 out of 53 shots before being substituted late in the game.

Southby said if her team was to compete with the world champions it had to string together longer periods of good play.

"When we get those basics right we've got the capabilities of playing a very exciting game and at the moment we're just not doing that as well as we can,” she said.

The Silver Ferns have been cruelled by injuries to key players, including versatile midcourter Kayla Cullen, who has been ruled out of the rest of the international season with a foot injury.

Cullen's absence forced Southby into playing players out of position, with the Kiwis missing the drive of Laura Langman in the centre.

Langman moved to wing defence, with veteran Anna Harrison only playing 15 minutes on Sunday after being sidelined for six weeks with a calf injury.

Langman does have the speed and footwork to match Diamonds wing attack Madison Robinson, but the New Zealand vice-captain was also desperately needed at centre to help steer the attack.

Harrison has been used to great effect at wing defence in the past, with her long limbs wrecking havoc in the midcourt, but the ploy typically only works for 15-20 minutes before teams adjust to her presence.

Given the Ferns are at a clear height disadvantage in the defensive end, with goalkeeper Jane Watson giving away 12cm to Diamonds sharpshooter Bassett, many have questioned whether Harrison's disruptive abilities would have been better put to use in the defensive circle.

Former Magic midcourter Jamie-Lee Price would have been the obvious answer but the young star withdrew from the New Zealand program in August in advance of her family's impending move back across the Tasman.

Price has signed with the new Giants franchise in Sydney next season.

Several other candidates are recovering from injuries, while others were deemed to be not ready to be thrown into the international cauldron.

"We actually have no specialist wing defences left in the country at the moment,” Southby said.

"We've had all those conversations and while we have a number of young, talented ones coming through, several are on injury management at the moment.

"It's exposed a bit of a gap there really. When you're playing against a team that is very sharp, little things get exposed.”

Southby is backing the new midcourt line to be better prepared in tonight's Test.

Given Harrison is not yet a full-game option and appears to be most needed in the defensive circle, it is likely Langman will once again start at wing defence, putting the onus on Shannon Francois to play a more commanding role at centre.

Francois will also need to play a key role in defence, with Southby calling on the Silver Ferns to do more to slow the Australian attack through the court.

"We have to do a better job on defence up the court,” the coach said.

"We were really guilty of not putting enough pressure on (Australia) throughout the court and that resulted in some pretty easy passing into Bassett at times.”

Tonight's Test is the first meeting between the two sides in Tasmania for 30 years.

with APNZ



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