Less than a week remains until arch-rivals the Australian Netball Diamonds and the New Zealand Silver Ferns battle out the Holden Netball Test Series in front of home crowds in Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Diamonds head into camp this afternoon in preparation for the final two test matches and in the absence of Diamonds captain Sharelle McMahon, defender Mo’onia Gerrard will take the role of acting on court captain for the series.
When McMahon was ruled out for the entire 2008 international series, the captaincy was to be rotated between Natalie von Bertouch, Catherine Cox and Gerrard. With Cox missing the two test series against England, von Bertouch stepped up to the position again after the tour of New Zealand, with Gerrard to have the role against the Silver Ferns in Australia.
“As a senior member of the team, I am excited about the opportunity and challenge to be the acting captain and to step up to this leadership role,” Gerrard explained.
After a hotly contested tour between the arch rivals in September and with both teams coming off recent series’ against England, Gerrard is expecting a fierce contest between the world’s two top ranked nations.
“They had a couple of easy wins against England and also a loss, so New Zealand will have something to prove. We are expecting a very physical encounter,” Gerrard said.
“We have an extremely young team and they all now realise the expectations of them every time they hit the court.
“The tour in September helped to mentally toughen us up, particularly the new players in the team.”
And with the ledger sitting at one-a-piece this year between the Diamonds and the Silver Ferns, Gerrard believes the key for winning this series will come down to skill execution.
“Minimising turnovers will be crucial for both teams and the final result in this series.”
Australian Netball Diamonds
Mo’onia Gerrard - acting captain
Natalie von Bertouch - vice captain
2008 Holden International Test Series
1st Test –Australia v New Zealand
Sunday 26 October from 3.10pm
Hisense Arena, Melbourne
2nd Test – Australia v New Zealand
Sunday 2 November from 2.10pm
Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
– but the sailors praise the new boats