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A stand-out performance from Grace Nweke changed the fortunes for the Silver Ferns, setting up a 58-47 win over Aotearoa Men in a compelling first match of a three-game series last night.
The Silver Ferns needed the presence of Nweke, who landed 39 from 44 attempts at goal, to beat a determined men’s side at TSB Arena in Wellington.
Combinations, consolidation of strategies and communication were key areas of focus for Silver Ferns coach Dame Noeline Taurua heading into the three-match series.
Taurua opted for experience in the shooting circle with Maia Wilson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit teaming up again and fed by captain Gina Crampton who returned from injury to pick up the wing attack bib.
The absence of wing defence Sam Winders prompted a reshuffle in the midcourt with Maddy Gordon getting a surprise nod at centre and Claire Kersten in defence.
Karin Burger and Kelly Jury were given the task of shutting down the tall timber in the men’s shooting circle.
Burger also relished the lift in intensity as she became a nuisance on defence, disrupting the men’s flow on attack in an MVP performance.
Kate Heffernan celebrated her first appearance in the black dress when she came on at wing defence in the third quarter.
The Ferns held a 38-37 lead turning into the final spell.
Shannon Saunders injected a new dynamic up front, coming on to the wing for the last 15 minutes of play as the Ferns’ superior fitness started to tell and the buffer blew out to 11 goals.
Silver Ferns 58 (Grace Nweke 39/44, Maia Wilson 12/21, Te Paea Selby-Rickit 5/13, Jamie Hume 2/8), Aotearoa Men 47 (Jay Geldard 35/36, Amosa Faitaua-Nanai 0/0, Dan Jefferies 6/7, Ben Smith 6/7).