Rivals on similar path to netball WC clash
Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu and her Australian counterpart, Lisa Alexander, want the same thing from their early pool matches in the Netball World Cup.
The Sydney tournament’s top two seeds have drawn the same pool and both need to navigate low-key matches before they meet on Sunday.
New Zealand play world No.9 Barbados at Olympic Park on Friday while the Diamonds have 10th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago lined up on the opening day of the 16-nation tournament.
The top seeds’ rivals are reversed on Saturday which is the the last opportunity for defending champions Australia and 2011 runners-up New Zealand to tweak their teams ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Taumaunu and Alexander both want to set a benchmark to build on, work on connections and bed in combinations before they meet for the first time since the Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medal match.
That’s a game Taumaunu would rather forget: the Kiwis lost the title they’d held for eight years by 18 goals as Australia extended their winning streak over the Silver Ferns to nine matches.
Both coaches want to give their entire 12-strong squads playing time, but neither are keen on making changes for change’s sake.
“We’re looking to get all our people out for the first block of three games,” Taumaunu said.
“But there’s a fine line between giving people enough court time, and not overdoing it leading into the Australia game on Sunday.”
She says matches against Australia’s under-21 team earlier in the week were helpful in providing a taste of the close physicality the Diamonds are renowned for.
“They were a really great line-up for us to remind ourselves of what the Australian style is like.
“We were a bit stunned for five minutes with the physical man-on-man stuff, but we came through it.
“Now it’ll be about setting a benchmark and building from there in each game we play thereafter.”
Alexander’s focus in her warm-up games has been on identifying combinations that work, and she expects that to continue ahead of the New Zealand game.
“It’s more about those really subtle connections together as combinations that you’re looking for as a coach, and whether things are just humming,” the Aussie coach said.
“It’s kind of hard to describe it in a particular skill or tactic you’re looking for, but it’s that ability to know what’s working for us.”