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Basketball - 24. September 2007.

NZL - Kerr, Tini in charge

AUCKLAND (FIBA Oceania Championship for Women)

The pair will inherit the leadership role off guard Noni Wharemate, who has held it through most of the national team’s 2007 campaign during the absence of Kerr, Tini and previous skipper Donna Wilkins.

“This is about recognizing their service to the programme,” acknowledges Fern coach Mike McHugh. “The way they play the game and the way they go about things demonstrate leadership … they are looked up to in our team.”

It is no co-incidence the duo are the longest serving members of this week’s roster.

Kerr (26) debuted for the Tall Ferns in 1999 and returns to the line-up for the first time since ACL reconstruction late last year. Tini (31) was first selected in 1996 and was also unavailable through most of the 2007 schedule, returning to lead the side against University of Wisconsin last month.

Wharemate sat out that encounter, played on a Sunday, for religious reasons.

“Jody demonstrated in that game that her own game improves with the extra responsibility,” says McHugh.

“Both Aneka and Jody are canny players … they’re clever and know the tricks of the game. It’s great to have them pass that on to their team-mates.”

The captaincy solution illustrates the development that has taken place within the Ferns over the past six months. With their veterans unavailable, the young squad has had to develop their own leadership group.

Wharemate was appointed to the job, but Kate McMeeken-Ruscoe has that honour with the Christchurch Sirens franchise in the Australian WNBL. Point guard Angela Marino is another prospect awaiting her turn.

“The position can be a burden if things are not going well,” says McHugh. “But we now have a number of people with strong leadership traits and whoever is captain now has plenty of support.”

New Zealand open the Oceania Championships against the world champion Australian Opals on Wednesday at Dunedin’s Edgar Centre.

Australia have already qualified for the Olympics, so the Tall Ferns must beat Fiji to claim the Oceania berth at Beijing.

Grant Chapman

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