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FAST5 Ferns: Ekenasio picks up pace in Netball return

A return to elite Netball has Ameliaranne Ekenasio facing one of her biggest challenges as she prepares to suit up for the game’s fast-paced short format.

Ekenasio is part of a 10-strong FAST5 Ferns squad building towards this weekend’s Fast5 Netball World Series in Melbourne.

It has been just four months since the birth of her first child, Ocean, and despite the demands of juggling motherhood with the commitments of top level netball the silky shooter is excited about returning to the game alongside some of New Zealand’s rising talent.

“I’m super excited,” she said.  “It’s a pretty big challenge though.  Obviously it’s been so long since I’ve played at that level so hopefully it all goes well.  I’m excited and nervous at the same time.”

The FAST5 Ferns arrive in Australia today for the October 28-29 event as favourites having dominated with six titles from seven tournaments, but Ekenasio said they had not discussed chasing a fifth straight title.

FAST5 Ferns HUB 

She said it was a young New Zealand team which would compete across the ditch and they would be careful not to heap too much pressure on themselves.

“I guess it’s probably that pink elephant in the room that no-one really wants to talk about yet,” she said regarding the FAST5 Ferns past success.

“It is a young team coming through.  Hopefully we can just go into it without putting too much pressure on ourselves as a team and we’ll probably perform better that way.”

Ekenasio, 26, said she had been putting in plenty of cardio mileage ahead of the World Series with the short format of the game a change of pace. 

“There’s enough running in normal netball anyway but Fast5’s definitely a running game,” she said with a laugh.  “It’s being able to maintain that pace and still put the shots away.  For me it’s about doing short sharp and real high intense bursts building up.”

The 12-test veteran may also be tempted to call on fellow Fern Maria Tutaia who set the series alight last year with her long range shooting prowess.

“The longer shots win you games,” Ekenasio said.  “(Maria) is like the queen of Fast5 so it’ll be a shame not to have her around but hopefully us shooters can kind of draw on her knowledge.”

Defender Storm Purvis will captain the FAST5 Ferns and the side will be coached by gold-medal winning New Zealand under-21 coach Kiri Wills for a second year. New Zealand has won six of the seven tournaments with England the only other team to claim the title in 2011.

Fast5 Ferns squad:  Kayla Cullen, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Monica Falkner, Jamie Hume, Erikana Pederson, Storm Purvis (c), Whitney Souness, Zoe Walker, Maia Wilson.