Questions linger over Silver Ferns but Nweke a standout

Whitney Souness made some nice cameos during the Nations Cup. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Whitney Souness made some nice cameos during the Nations Cup. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
It was a Nations Cup result many expected when the Silver Ferns finished third in a tournament featuring Australia, England and Uganda.
Netball writer Kayla Hodge shares her thoughts as the international season closes.



Is there anything Grace Nweke cannot do? The star shooter, who turns 22 next month, racked up her 1000th goal in just 31 tests. She has been the Silver Ferns’ saving grace for a while now and her Nations Cup performances backed that up. Nweke missed only eight goals from her 200 attempts across the four games, and slotted 53 from 54 against Uganda. She is the most dominant shooter in the world, but the Silver Ferns still struggle to feed her, and it feels like the ball can be given much sooner. It was always going to be tough with limited shooting options, but Nweke was served well by Georgia Heffernan and Amorangi Malesala on debut.



Hard not to keep barking on about this one, but the Silver Ferns are often their own worst enemy when it comes to stringing a full 60 minutes together. Both Uganda games were prime examples, in which they had the chance to take the game by the scruff of the neck and push out to a decent lead, but failed, letting Uganda sneak in. There was some real growth, and gritty fightback, in that game against England, which is what is needed, but that hustle is required from the first whistle. They cannot wait until the final quarter to win the game.



Fantastic to see so much depth across the Silver Ferns midcourt: Kate Heffernan, Mila Reulu-Buchanan, Whitney Souness, Maddy Gordon, Tayla Earle, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson. But it seems they are still searching for a perfect combination. Gordon and Reulu-Buchanan were preferred, but Souness slotted in nicely. They appear to be hesitant to let the ball go into the circle and need to play with a little more freedom. Everyone brings something different, and that is important depending the state of the game, but it also raises slight concerns. Six, or more, does not fit in to three, and players need to back up their performances to show why they should be the first pick. Unfortunate to see Heffernan (Achilles) and Gordon (head knock), arguably the most versatile midcourters, pick up niggles.



Coach Dame Noeline Taurua’s contract finishes next month and there are still unanswered questions around her future. Taurua reiterated again this week she will make her decision quickly, but that still leaves things up in the air. If she leaves, who becomes the next Silver Ferns coach? Deb Fuller is the incumbent assistant and that role seems to suit her, and Yvette McCausland-Durie deserves another look. Interestingly, there has never been a non-Kiwi coach, but plenty of Australian assistants — Vicki Wilson, Jane Woodlands-Thompson, Briony Akle — have helped over the years. No international dates have been set for the rest of the year, but safe to say there will be a Constellation Cup, and a series against either England or Jamaica. Would be nice to see the Quad Series return too.