New Zealand Cadbury Series: Game 1 preview

THE Cadbury Series gets underway tonight as the New Zealand Under 21s take on the New Zealand Men’s squad in the opening game of the series. The other game of the night sees New Zealand A lock horns with the Silver Ferns in what is set to be an action packed start to the series. Unfortunately promising defender, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was a late withdrawal from the NZA side after rupturing her Achilles for the second time in just over nine months, with her replacement yet to be named.

NZ U21s v. NZ Men’s
6pm Wednesday, 21 October (NZ time)

It will be an intriguing battle as both sides look to get off to a strong start in the Cadbury Series. Plenty of fresh and exciting faces will take the court for both sides as the New Zealand Men’s squad only has five returnees from the 2019 series, while a couple of teenagers make their way onto the international stage for the Under 21s.

Defensively the Under 21s squad, coached by reigning ANZ Premiership championship coach Yvette McCausland-Durie, will have their work cut out for them to combat the likes of Junior Levi. The towering goaler is an incredible target under the post and most importantly is prolific meaning the likes of youngster Taneisha Fifita will have to be on her A-game if she is to quell his influence. Fifita will need a wealth of support down the court to reduce Levi’s influence with the likes of Paris Lokotui and Georgie Edgecombe out the front needing to implement strong hands over pressure to reduce the speed in which the ball can enter the circle. They will also potentially have the task of stopping the ever-accurate Cameron Powell who oozes a wealth of athleticism and has a strong connection with Levi making them a damaging duo especially when given time and space to run free. Powell can float between goals and wing attack making him an ominous prospect for the Under 21s. Captain Kruze Tangira is another danger man able to make something out of nothing and use his creativity to initiate attacking forays time after time, an area the Under 21s will be hoping to shut down through the likes of defender turned midcourter Renee Savai’ineae and excitement machine and highly talented athlete Ainsleyana Puleiata.

Inside the circle, the Under 21s squad have plenty of exciting prospects with the likes of Tiana Metuarau somewhat of an experienced campaigner despite her young age. She has proven to be a real impact player when on court for the Pulse and will be hoping to bring that signature flair into this match against some tough opponents. Fellow goalers Saviour Tui and Khiarna Williams boast a wealth of versatility and strength able to implement clever holds and use their body to advantage to reel ball in. However, up against some of the bigger bodies in Jake Schuster who is renowned for his ability to contest every pass, the young goalers might have to shake up their approach slightly to ensure they can get easy passage to goal.

Although both sides have had limited time together, expect the New Zealand Men’s side to get up over the Under 21s who are still finding their stride and consistency.

New Zealand A (NZA) v. Silver Ferns
8pm Wednesday, 21 October (NZ time)

The battle between the Silver Ferns and New Zealand A will bring plenty of excitement as some of the best in the business come together in order to claim their first win of the series. There is a good mix of experience and youth throughout both squads with some tried and tested combinations likely to get a run along with a few surprises likely to be thrown into the mix especially for the Ferns as they prepare for the test series against England.

NZA have no shortage of tall timbers inside the goal circle with Ellie Bird and Aliyah Dunn both viable options under the post. Strong on the hold, Dunn has proven she is more than capable to get on the move and present while Bird is strong in the air. Having played together in the ANZ Premiership Dunn will have her work cut out for her up against the likes of Ferns defender, Kelly Jury who really hit her straps in the latter half of the season with her read of the play and long arms causing havoc. Sulu Fitzpatrick is another option in goal keeper renowned for her physicality and sheer athleticism. Both Jamie Hume and Monica Falkner play more of a sweeping role out the front in goal attack to keep the movement flowing and defenders guessing which complements the style of Bird and Dunn. The Ferns, however have the services of Karin Burger and Jane Watson who are renowned for their shut down abilities paired with their cleanliness at the contest to reclaim possession for their side, making for an enthralling battle.

There is plenty of speed to burn through the midcourt for both sides with Maddy Gordon and Whitney Souness two key pocket rockets for NZA, while Kimiora Poi provides plenty of energy for the Ferns. Gordon rose to stardom throughout the ANZ Premiership season thanks to her fancy footwork, quick hands and defensive attributes despite playing in wing attack. for the Ferns, Poi is accompanied by the likes of experienced duo Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders which could add that element of stability to the new-look frontend thanks to Grace Nweke getting the nod in the squad. Nweke is a highly talented young prospect that oozes composure, accuracy and volume while familiar faces in Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit are amongst other options inside the goal circle. Speaking of new-look units, NZA boast a relatively fresh defensive combination with Georgia Tong and Oceane Maihi real ball magnets back in goal keeper despite being on the shorter side. Their versatility is also key with Erena Mikaere able to swing between goal defence and goal keeper when needed, something they might have to resort to, to potentially combat Nweke if she gets the start.

Expect a close battle between both sides however in the end the experience and class of the Silver Ferns is likely to prevail given their strong connections across the court and ability to grind out games.

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