Silver Ferns in slump as Games loom

Maria Folau (nee Tutaia) of New Zealand Silver Ferns. Photo: Getty Images
Maria Folau (nee Tutaia) of New Zealand Silver Ferns. Photo: Getty Images

The Silver Ferns are just one loss away from their longest losing streak of all time, as their struggles against the rest of netball's top echelon continue.

A 64-57 extra-time defeat to England in their Quad Series opener yesterday meant the Ferns slumped to their fifth straight loss, and extended a poor run against the world's top sides under coach Janine Southby.

The Ferns now hold a 6-12 record against Australia and England under Southby's tutelage, who labelled their most recent defeat as being "very disappointing".

With 10 minutes remaining, the Ferns held a seven-goal lead, but poor execution and static offence saw England storm back to force extra time.

There they pulled away, winning the extra period 15-8 for their seventh win over New Zealand in 92 meetings.

Southby lamented the Ferns not being able to perform under pressure.

"We felt like we had control for parts of the game. Just some really silly personal errors and going away from our plan under pressure — at this level that's just not good enough.

"The frustrating part is that these things do take time, and we're working as hard as we can to show that."

Performing in the clutch has become a burgeoning issue for the Ferns recently, having won just one game decided by five goals or less under Southby. Additionally, they have blown four fourth-quarter leads, compared with earning two fourth-quarter comeback victories.

While those statistics have plenty of variables (to blow a fourth-quarter lead, you have to be good enough to be in front to begin with), Southby believes there is an underlying issue which needs fixing.

"When you get under pressure your vision narrows, and it's about taking a breath and being confident in how you play the game. For some of those players, they've felt it, they know these things, and I'm sure they'll come out stronger for it," she said.

If things don't look up before the Commonwealth Games, Southby's record may come under closer scrutiny. Her 33% tally of wins against Australia and England is the worst of any Silver Ferns coach since 1948 - though there are extenuating circumstances.

Her predecessor - Waimarama Taumaunu – won only 38% of those games, and Southby has been asked to take control of an inexperienced team which lacks the full depth of previous squads.

To get things back on the right track and avoid a record-equalling sixth straight defeat, the Ferns need to beat South Africa on Friday — a team they haven't lost to since 1995.

But South Africa lost to Australia by only four goals in their opener, and by seven in their most recent meeting with New Zealand. Despite holding a 29-1 all-time record against South Africa, Southby knows they are no longer easy beats.

"We know that we've got to be better than this [against South Africa]; I think it's been a really good wake-up call."

With the Games looming, those improvements need to start now.

NZ coaches vs Australia and England
Lois Muir

35 wins, 9 losses, 4 ties — 73%

Lyn Gunson 16 wins, 8 losses — 67%

Ruth Aitken 40 wins, 21 losses — 66%

Yvonne Willering 11 wins, 10 losses — 52%

Taini Jamison 2 wins, 2 losses — 50%

Leigh Gibbs 5 wins, 7 losses — 42%

Dixie Cockerton 2 wins, 3 losses — 40%

Waimarama Taumaunu 14 wins, 17 losses — 38%

Janine Southby 6 wins, 12 losses — 33%

Myrtle Muir 0 wins, 4 losses — 0%

 

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