Silver Ferns ready for semi final against England
The resurgent Silver Ferns couldn’t have asked for a better preparation ahead of their semi final showdown against England at the Vitality Netball World Cup in Liverpool on Sunday (2am, NZ time).
After a thrilling second half revival, the Silver Ferns were pipped 50-49 by Australia in their last preliminary match, consigning them to second spot in the pool and the prospect of an equally challenging assignment against England.
“Being the gold medallists from the last Commonwealth Games (2018) and being at home, I expect a torrid encounter against England. It will be an intense match because a shot at the title is on the line,” Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua said.
On the back foot for most of the first half against Australia, there was plenty to enthuse about in the Silver Ferns second half endeavour. Taurua’s knack of making the right changes at the right time in challenging situations provided impetus while reinforcing the team’s depth and variety.
Shooters Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (after a spell on the bench), the introduction of wing attack Shannon Saunders and the rotation of players in the defence line played key roles in lifting the Silver Ferns second half efforts following the early Australian onslaught.
“As the earlier games showed, each of our players brings something a wee bit different to the set structure and when changes were made, they were able to do their job which is great,” Taurua said.
“It was great to get a taste of that sort of pressure, that sort of challenge and have that under our belt before we meet England. We’ve still got a little bit to go to be able to put a dominant performance out there but it’s a great start and the semi-finals is a big day for everybody because it’s do-or-die of whether you get into gold medal contention or not.
“We needed that game. it was great to get out there and get that level of intensity, know what this competition’s about and we’ve learnt a lot.”
Up against a quality team, who have never won a World Cup, and with the backing of a home crowd, Taurua is fully aware of the strike power England bring to the table.
“With Geva Mentor (goalkeeper) spearheading a strong defence end, she is a very mature, very experienced and a game-breaker,” Taurua said.
“The attacking end is also very solid and they have been able to consolidate that over several years. Jo Harten and Helen Housby are high percentage shooters, they’re very smart and don’t get caught up in the physical stuff. They do a good job of putting doubt in their opponent’s heads by being quite creative and street smart by bringing drama to that end of the court and are well-marshalled by (wing attack) Chelsea Pitman.
“The crowd can make a difference but you’ve still got to be able to deliver and it can provide pressure either way.”
Pleased with some aspects against Australia, captain Laura Langman was blunt in her assessment while urging for more from her Silver Ferns team-mates.
“From here on in, it’s about fronting up and standing up,” she said.
“Ultimately, the challenge is we’ve got to rise to the occasion and punch through even further. We did that in patches against Australia but our ability to back it up is key.”