Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua is delighted that her side will face a mixed invitational team next week which will include two former Australian diamonds.
In fact, Dame Noeline coached both Kelsey Browne and Laura Scherian when she was in charge of the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the Australian netball league.
Browne became a Diamond under Dame Noeline, and shortly after the New Zealand coach left the Lightning in 2019, Scherian became the oldest player to debut for the Diamonds at 31.
With an embarrassment of riches in midfield, the pair are now on the fringes of the Diamonds squad.
But former Silver Fern Marg Foster, who coaches the New Zealand Invitational Mixed team, picked them up.
Dame Noeline said it was a smart move by Foster.
“I’m really happy that you know that our midfield is able to fight or get used to this style in the Australian way, the speed of the ball but also the movement,” said Dame Noeline.
“I think with Maddy [Gordon] In that too, I think these three will make a great unit.”
The Silver Ferns coach said the mixed squad will bring a lot of variety which will require them to constantly adapt.
“And then depending on what’s going on in the circle, you know it could be air defense or tight one man defense, so I’m looking forward to playing that variety. Our ability to change our own strategy will be important every once we take the field.”
As a world first, Mixed matches will be broadcast live.
Foster picked an interesting side, with a mix of youth and experience, including 44-year-old Leana de Bruin, who played in the ANZ Premiership this year to help cover illness.
Named in reserve is Donna Wilkins, who played the last of her 64 Tests for the Silver Ferns in 2002 and also played basketball for New Zealand.
There are likely to be some fiery encounters during the Cadbury series, which also includes the NZA team and the men of Aotearoa, who will be looking for revenge after the Ferns beat them 2-1 last October.
The Silver Ferns coach says the men have exceptional elevation and physicality on the ball.
“Playing at the Commonwealth Games we’re going to have different styles, and that’s our ability to fight that. That’s the beauty I suppose of having the men – where we have really aerial players as well as the physical, so I guess Marg [Foster] going to mix that with the women.”
As with social competitions, there will be rules regarding the ratio of male and female players who must enter the field.
When the mixed team take on the Silver Ferns and the NZA, it will be a four women and three men split, with the men split across the three areas of the pitch.
Foster said when the mixed team played the Aotearoa men, they asked if they could split four men and three women.
Foster said the mixed team can help simulate what the Silver Ferns will encounter at the Commonwealth Games.
“…Men offering that real aerial game like Jamaica or Australia’s tough man-on-man defense,” Foster said.
“We want to put the Ferns under that kind of pressure and we realize that we want to push them as hard as possible as they prepare for this showpiece event.”
The NZA squad coached by Reinga Bloxham includes players who missed out on the Silver Ferns Commonwealth Games squad, like Sam Winders and those names as reserves – Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Tiana Metuarau.
Dame Noeline, who put the Silver Ferns through their paces at a training camp in Wellington, said there was always excitement in bringing a new team together.
“I guess a bit of the unknown, a bit of excitement, of anxiety, but every day is a better day than it was yesterday and that’s all we can do to keep building.”
Specialist coaches attended on-court sessions as part of their preparation, including Australian Jane Woodlands-Thompson, who has worked with the team before.
The Cadbury series kicks off July 13 in Auckland.