THE 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England are just around the corner. To celebrate, we are previewing each of the competing netball nations and predicting how they might fare in the tournament.
Today it is reigning World Cup champions New Zealand under the microscope.
Of all the countries competing in the netball at these Commonwealth Games, one of those with the biggest expectations of them is the New Zealand.
After all the Silver Ferns are the reigning World Cup champions, defeating the Aussie Diamonds by a single goal back in 2019. But three years is a long time, and with a pandemic disrupting international netball in that time they have not had a lot of international action in that time.
But unlike many of their opposition, the Silver Ferns have the advantage of all playing at home in New Zealand’s national league the ANZ Premiership, so even though they do not have the international action together they still have game time together.
They had a very good workout in the pre games Cadbury Series between them, the New Zealand A side, the New Zealand Men’s side and a Mixed Invitational side, where they finished second. Although they will not face any of these teams at the Games, they are a different challenge.
However, one glaring issue for the Silver Ferns came out of the tournament – their shooting accuracy. It was very low in all games they played. Even against the New Zealand A side – the side closest in resemblance to their Commonwealth Games opponents in terms of types of players – only one player had a shooting percentage higher than 80 per cent.
Naturally with a team that is as high quality as the Silver Ferns are, there are a number of players to watch at the Commonwealth Games. Kelly Jury and Maia Wilson had strong ANZ Premiership seasons, while Gina Crampton and Whitney Souness are also in good recent form after strong performances in the Cadbury Series.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit got the gig in the Commonwealth Games squad over Ameliaranne Ekenasio, so she will be looking to repay the selector’s favour in her. There is a fair amount of intrigue surrounding Grace Nweke, who is inexperienced at international level so it will be interesting to see how she goes this tournament.
In terms of the schedule, making the knockout stage should not be an issue for the Silver Ferns. The real challenge will come from the English in the final game of the group stage, but the Silver Ferns should win the remaining four games.
The question is what happens after that. Although they are the reigning World Cup champions, they finished fourth at the last Commonwealth Games, so they will certainly be hoping that history does not repeat itself.
Kayla Johnson, Phoenix Karaka, Kelly Jury, Sulu Fitzpatrick, Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders, Whitney Souness, Kate Heffernan, Maia Wilson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Grace Nweke, Bailey Mes
Friday 29 July – Northern Ireland
Saturday 30 July – Uganda
Monday 1 August – Malawi
Tuesday 2 August – Trinidad and Tobago
Thursday 4 August – England