2021 New Zealand/England test series preview – Which nation will clinch the Taini Jamison Trophy?

THE Cadbury Netball Series between New Zealand Silver Ferns and England Roses has arrived, with international netball gracing the stage for the first time since early 2021. With lockdowns and quarantine restrictions in place, neither team has had a significant amount of preparation heading into the series, set to contend for the Taini Jamison Trophy in Christchurch, New Zealand. The two nations will play three matches over the course of five days, all set to begin at 7:30pm NZST (5:30pm AEST).


New Zealand GS: Maia Wilson GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit WA: Gina Crampton C: Shannon Saunders WD: Claire Kersten GD: Karin Burger GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick Bench: Maddy Gordon, Kate Heffernan, Jamie Hume, Kelly Jury, Tiana Metuarau, Grace Nweke, Peta Toeava, Sam Winders * Kimiora Poi, Georgia Tong, Paris Lokotui added to squad
England GS: George Fisher GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis WA: Laura Malcolm C: Serena Guthrie WD: Beth Cobden GD: Layla Guscoth GK: Geva Mentor Bench: Ella Clark, Rhea Dixon, Ellie Cardwell, Hannah Joseph, Imogen Allison, Jade Clarke, Fran Williams, Vicki Oyesola ** Stacey Francis-Bayman, Jo Harten, Helen Housby, Nat Haythornthwaite
While it is safe to say recent history between the two nations has seen New Zealand clinch the accolades more often than not, this is the most even line-up of players across the two nations in a fair while, with a number of main fixtures missing in action from both squad lists. There are a couple of variations of the starting sevens that could go around, with plenty of developing players adding to the already cemented depth. Despite Maia Wilson‘s shaky form of late, it is highly likely that coach Dame Noeline Taurua will opt for Wilson’s experience taking on the likes of Geva Mentor over young star Grace Nweke, at least to start, with Mentor returning to the international stage for the first time since 2019. Up against a highly versatile and dynamic defender in predicted goal defence Layla GuscothTe Paea Selby-Rickit has a cool head under pressure and experience alongside Wilson so can help steady the ship. Factor in Selby-Rickit’s ability to take pressure off her wing attack at the centre, and new captain Gina Crampton should have a solid start in the midcourt against another impressive defender in returnee Beth Cobden, coming in off the back of a league MVP in the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL). If not Cobden, coach Jess Thirlby will likely still opt for experience in Jade Clarke over developing talent Imogen Allison, at least for the first match. It is safe to say that wing defence/centre is a huge growth point for the Roses, with another star through the midcourt, captain Serena Guthrie set to pull on the centre bib. Comparatively, the centre bib could be a contentious one for the Ferns, who are still trying to fill the void that Laura Langman left with her retirement. Of a number of viable options, it is predicted that Shannon Saunders will earn the starting bib, at least for the first match, with plenty of room to move with Claire Kersten predicted to start in wing defence but able to move up the court, and a couple of other options on the bench. A battle between Kersten and newfound wing attack Laura Malcolm could prove intriguing, with the versatile midcourter expected to play the role in the absence of Nat Haythornthwaite, but plenty of attacking options at the Roses’ disposal. There are a couple of options the Roses squad could go for in the front-end, but despite the experience of Ellie Cardwell it is expected the versatile mover will start on the bench with George Fisher earning the starting goal shooter bib purely due to her experience playing on Ferns defenders throughout the 2021 ANZ Premiership season. While the Ferns are typically known for their defensive prowess, their defence is relatively depleted at the moment with no Jane Watson or Katrina Rore, meaning it is highly likely Sulu Fitzpatrick will line up on Fisher, and Karin Burger will take the goal defence position against playmaker Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. The relative inexperience of the Roses attack should make the battles at this end hugely intriguing, with both sides missing major fixtures, and neither starting goalers in Jo Harten or Helen Housby participating. Both squads boast a heap of depth, with a couple of familiar faces likely to take the court. Realistically, it is New Zealand’s front end that is most likely to swap the bibs with Nweke a clear frontrunner in goal shooter if Wilson is not firing, while Tiana Metuarau and Jamie Hume both add very different goal attack options to chop and change with Selby-Rickit. Maddy Gordon will be looking to steal away any of the three midcourt bibs, while there is no denying the partnership between Nweke and wing attack Peta Toeava. The Roses bench is also somewhat star-studded, although it is safe to say that if there are rotations happening, most will be in the attacking midcourt area with so many defensive-minded players expected to earn the start. Clarke could be injected into wing defence to add some valuable experience, but it is the wing attack role that could prove intriguing with Hannah Joseph eyeing off a return to the court in the red dress and Drakeford-Lewis able to rotate out to wing if required. Rhea Dixon will be chomping at the bit to prove herself, able to ply her trade through the attack and circle.
Both teams look very different to their last iterations against one another, making it really hard to predict which way the series will go. That being said, despite the Ferns’ squad being somewhat depleted with experienced heads in Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Watson and Rore missing from the fray, the squad still boasts enough talent to get over the line here. The Roses have the experience of three centurions in Guthrie, Mentor and Clarke and excitement factor of their young talent, but lose that front-end firepower and consistency with neither Harten nor Housby participating. Realistically, expect the Ferns to take home the Taini Jamison Trophy with at least two wins from three games, if not a clean sweep, though it is safe to say with holes in each squad it should be a lot closer than their last tests.
* Added as top-up players to the main squad ** Australia-based Roses not participating Cadbury Netball Series – Taini Jamison Trophy Christchurch Arena Monday 20 September, 7.30pm Wednesday 22 September, 7.30pm Friday 24 September, 7.30pm All games will be broadcast live in New Zealand on Sky Sport 1 and Sky Sport Now with delayed free to air coverage at 8.30pm on TVNZ 2, while for international viewers, all tests will be broadcast live at netballnz.streamamg.com. For UK viewers, matches will be broadcast on Sky Sports UK. Picture credit: Sky Sports
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