Plenty of positional posers to ponder

Mila Reuelu-Buchanan could play an important role in the vacant Silver Ferns wing attack position...
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan could play an important role in the vacant Silver Ferns wing attack position. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
The Silver Ferns face Australia in the opening Constellation Cup clash in Melbourne tonight. Netball writer Kayla Hodge ponders some questions as the transtasman rivalry resumes.

New era

It is rare for the Silver Ferns and Diamonds to hardly meet in a pinnacle year. They last faced each other in the Quad Series back in January, but did not play at the Netball World Cup — which the Diamonds won — for the first time, or at last year’s Commonwealth Games. The Diamonds won the Quad Series, but much has changed since then. Ash Brazil and vice-captain Steph Wood have retired from the green and gold, and Australia only named their team last week. It will be interesting to see how the Silver Ferns adapt to the Diamonds’ physicality, one-on-one defending and speed, having not been tested against them for 10 months.

Handing over . . .

Grace Nweke has not taken the court since July, after her World Cup-ending knee injury. Coach Noeline Taurua was initially unclear on Nweke’s availability for the Australian leg, but was optimistic yesterday, saying she was tracking well. If Nweke does take the court, surely she will be on managed minutes as she works her way back. It is a fine line between risking her too early and needing the linchpin at the back.

. . . the baton

Enter Amelia Walmsley. Walmsley, who made waves for the Central Pulse this season with regular game time, starred in her first two tests against the Roses. She helped the Silver Ferns rebound after the disappointing opening test, but there are questions around how she will hold up against the Diamonds’ physicality. Walmsley needs another domestic season to build her strength and stability under the post, but there is no denying she is a star of the future, and that will be tested this series.

Rock and a hard place

Where does Karin Burger fit in? She was benched for the final Roses tests, as Taurua opted for Maddy Gordon in the middle and shifted Kate Heffernan to wing defence. Phoenix Karaka has shone at goal defence, shutting Burger out there as well. Burger has been a game-changer in recent years, especially against the Diamonds, so you have to wonder whether Taurua reverts back to Burger starting for her experience. But who will be sacrificed to fit her in?

Waiting in the wings

Stalwart wing attack Gina Crampton is on sabbatical, leaving an opening. Taurua alternated between Whitney Souness and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan during the Taini Jamison series, but arguably Reuelu-Buchanan made an impact. Her punch through the middle opened the attack line, and her feeds to Ameliaranne Ekenasio — in the form of her life — were pinpoint. Her speed could be key against the Diamonds, who will be trialling players at wing defence without their specialist in Brazil.

Final thoughts

Why is it four games? Surely three or five makes more sense for an outright winner. Something to look at in the future.