The Fast Ferns have been handed plenty of creative
licence in this weekend's World Netball Series in Auckland.
The three-day tournament, which begins today at Vector Arena,
will be the first time the event has been run under the
revised rules for the shortened form of the game.
Introduced in 2009, Fastnet, as it was originally known, has
struggled to take off with fans in its first three years, the
rules not all that much different from the traditional game.
This year the format has been given a radical overhaul with
the number of players in a team cut to five, and the
introduction of three-point shots, rolling substitutions and
Version 2 of the game, which has been rebranded Fast5, offers
plenty of scope for innovation.
After a busy international season, the Fast Ferns - featuring
most of New Zealand's top talent, including Irene van Dyk,
Maria Tutaia, Laura Langman and Katrina Grant - have had
little time to get their head around the changes. So one of
the first tasks for the side when they reassembled in camp
this week was to sit down and go over the rules and have a
bit of a brainstorm.
Despite feeling weary after a demanding international season,
Langman said there was still plenty of enthusiasm in the camp
ahead of the weekend's tournament.
She said it helped that coach Waimarama Taumaunu had
encouraged the team to go out and have some fun.
"It's not a serious test series, it's a little bit
light-hearted, it's a new brand of netball and we're all
really excited about it," said Langman.
"We certainly have some creative characters in our team and
they've come up with a few things that we'll hopefully be
able to pull off."
As she has all season, Langman can expect to have a heavy
workload during the tournament with only one midcourt
position on court.
While the games are just 24 minutes long, the super-fit
midcourter expects the matches to be demanding.
"Taking away two players does up the workload for everyone
out there, and it will be a matter of how efficient and how
smart a team operates," said Langman, who will once again
take over the captaincy this weekend in the absence of Casey
One area Taumaunu has indicated her team will be looking at
closely is the centre-pass defence. Without the wing attack
and wing defence positions, it will effectively be
three-on-two in favour of the defensive side for the centre
"We envisage it will be very challenging trying to get that
centre pass away," said Taumaunu.
Australian coach Lisa Alexander has indicated she plans to
play midcourters at goal attack in more of a feeding role.
With only one traditional goal attack in the group - Amorette
Wild - Alexander said it was likely midcourters Elissa
Macleod, Verity Simmons or Shae Bolton would be used at goal
"They can all shoot from the three-point zones so we'll give
them that licence to do so when appropriate and we know that
they'll feed our shooters really well," said Alexander.
While Alexander has opted to use the tournament for
development and brought a second-tier side to Auckland,
Langman expects the Fast5 Diamonds will be competitive this
However, she singled out the Jamaicans as their strongest
rivals for the crown.
"Looking at it I think Jamaica can be very dangerous, just
due to their pure athleticism and ability to jump and sprint.
"They're very crafty, so we have to watch out for them."
The Sunshine Girls are one of the few teams in Auckland that
have had a chance to trial the new rules and the more
free-flowing, creative style of game is expected to favour
Captain Nadine Bryan is excited by her side's progress at
training and believes the new format suits Jamaica's
"We got a chance to practise the rules back home and
strategise as to what we need to do. We really do like the
changes, and doing things a little differently when we've
played it back home there's been a lot of stuff we've done
that is really exciting."
As part of the festival feel of the tournament, competing
teams have been encouraged to break from their traditional
uniforms for the event - something Jamaica have keenly
grasped hold of in previous years. Bryan is promising this
year's looks will be eye-catching.
"One of [our] uniforms wasn't completed ... so we only have
one of the new uniforms, but we've come up with something
The Fast5 Ferns meet Jamaica in the tournament's first match
Fast5 World Netball Series
Today - Sunday
Vector Arena, Auckland
5.00pm Jamaica v South Africa
5.45pm England v Australia
6.30pm New Zealand v Jamaica
7.15pm Malawi v Australia
8.00pm England v South Africa
8.45pm Jamaica v Malawi
9.30pm New Zealand v Australia
4.15pm England v Jamaica
5.00pm New Zealand v Malawi
5.45pm Australia v South Africa
6.30pm England v Malawi
7.15pm New Zealand v South Africa
8.00pm Australia v Jamaica
8.45pm South Africa v Malawi
9.30pm New Zealand v England
3.15pm Semifinal 1 v 4
4.00pm Semifinal 2 v 3
4.45pm Play-off for 5th/6th
6.40pm Play-off for 3rd/4th loser semifinal 1 v loser
7.30pm Grand final winner semifinal 1 v winner semifinal 2
- Dana Johannsen of the New Zealand Herald