New Zealand’s inexperienced shooting line up, in a rebuilding phase following the retirement of Irene van Dyk, look set to come under more pressure in the Constellation Cup series against Australia, following the news that Maria Tutaia has been granted extended leave from international duties by Netball New Zealand. The remaining 11 members of the Silver Ferns squad from Sydney will take part in trials in Auckland at the start of the month, alongside other invitees which include experienced defender Anna Harrison, returning to competition after the birth of her second child. Four players have ruled themselves out of the selection process, including Liana Leota and Joline Henry, both of whom have withdrawn from the 2015. Camilla Lees, who is pursuing her medical career in the UK, and Courtney Tairi, who continues her recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, are the other two significant absentees. The 12 players selected will face Australia in two tests on New Zealanad soil before travelling to Melbourne and Perth to complete the series.
The Constellation Cup will also mark the end of Waimarama Taumaunu’s stint as New Zealand head coach, after eight years in the international programme. Taumaunu, a former head coach of the England team, joined the Ferns as assistant to Ruth Aiken before promotion to the top job in 2011 but has decided that now is the time for her to take a break from the international game.
Two other Kiwis will be plying their trade in the UK in the coming season. Jo Trip, who has previously represented the Kia Magic and Canterbury Tactix in the ANZ Championship, has signed for Loughborough Lightning for 2016 and will bolster the franchise’s circle defence as it bids to improve on a sixth place finish in 2015.
Meanwhile, Team Northumbria has signed former New Zealand U21 and Cook Islands coach TeAroha Keenan as head coach for the coming season. Keenan has an exemplary record in developing emerging players, having led Mount Albert Grammar to the New Zealand secondary schools title for the past four seasons. Under her tutelage, the New Zealand U21 side took gold at the World Youth Championships in 2005, and she acted as assistant coach for the Silver Ferns in 2006. In addition, she coached ANZ side the Northern Mystics from 2009-10.
With the country’s sides continued dominance in the ANZ Championships, Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander has proposed an additional Australian team from Canberra be considered for inclusion in the competition. Alexander made the call while in Canberra for a three day “Future Diamonds Focus” camp, at the Australian Institute of Sport which aims to identify the next generation of national squad players. Canberra fans certainly have the appetite for netball – Diamonds games at the AIS Arena have sold out within hours and the NSW Swifts also played an ANZ championship game in front of a sell out crowd there in 2014.
Tracey Neville has been confirmed as the head coach for England Netball, after leading the side to a bronze medal at the world championships in Sydney while acting as an interim. Neville, who achieved 81 international caps during her playing career, will now take charge of the squad full time, in the run up to the Netball World Cup in Liverpool in 2019.
Finally new rule changes being introduced by the INF may limit the opportunity for players to implement the “Harrison Hoist” lift manoeuvre, introduced by Anna Harrison in the 2012 season. Under the new changes “goal tending” will not be permitted with players not permitted to blocking a shot once the ball is on a downward arc. However, the opportunity to shot block is still allowed while the ball is rising. The other major change to the rules will prevent the use of injury breaks as tactical time outs. All injury and illness breaks will now be limited to 30 seconds, and players must leave the court immediately.
England 6-Russia )