Switch a 'refresher' for Tutaia

Maria Tutaia in action at goal shoot for the Silver Ferns against England. Photo: Getty Images
Maria Tutaia in action at goal shoot for the Silver Ferns against England. Photo: Getty Images
Maria Tutaia says the shift to goal shoot is the "refresher" she needs to continue building her arsenal.

The Silver Ferns vice captain was set a new challenge during the Taini Jamison series against England, making the shift back to goal shoot, effectively swapping bibs with Bailey Mes.

After a brief experimentation with the change-up in last weekend's disappointing loss to the Roses, which came to an end when Tutaia was benched early in the third quarter after struggling to find her shooting range, Janine Southby opted to start with the re-jigged combination in last night's series decider in Hamilton.

The gamble paid off, with the change-up one of the key factors in helping the Ferns to a 62-55 win to claim the series 2-1.

English defensive kingpin Geva Mentor failed to make the impact she had in previous matches without a holding-style shooter to tether herself to. With Tutaia happy to take the short ball delivered from the circle edge, it went some way to nullifying Mentor's stunning aerial game.

Last night was the first time Tutaia has played a full game at goal shoot at international level, and while she admits she prefers the freedom at goal attack, the long-range specialist said the switch-up has helped her develop new aspects to her game.

"It was a massive curveball that Janine threw at me, but it was a great opportunity to try something new. This is probably the refresher I needed in my game," Tutaia said.

"At the end of the day you still put the ball through the hoop, but movement-wise, structure-wise, timing-wise it is very different at goal shoot. Your timing has to be impeccable. At goal attack I'm used to running around like a headless chook, but you have to be much more definite with your movements at goal shoot. It's hard."

Asked if she saw her future being in the goal shoot position, Tutaia is not yet convinced.

"Ahhh no," she laughed.

"Like I said, it was a good refresher, but I still love goal attack."

Her coach may have different ideas.

Janine Southby said she was impressed with Tutaia's ability to create play around the attacking third, providing the Ferns with an unorthodox, but highly effective, dynamic.

"It's probably not her favourite position, but I thought she did a really good job of it last night and her leads out of the circle just provided a really good link with the middies and it gave Bailey space to run in under the post - and that's where she is great."

The other advantage of the change-up is Mes' agility and athleticism make her a strong asset on defence through the midcourt, helping shore up the Ferns' zone defence.

Mes was a revelation at goal attack in the New Zealand side's 10-goal win over Australia in the Quad Series finale earlier this month - a match Tutaia missed due to bereavement. On that occasion Mes partnered with Te Paea Selby-Rickit in the shooting circle.

Southby said the biggest area of development over the past few weeks has been in their shooting combinations. In Tutaia, Mes and Selby-Rickit, Southby now has three shooters who are confident in both positions, giving her the flexibility to change things up - something she is expected to use to full effect in next month's Constellation Cup series against Australia.

"We need to keep putting a whole lot of things into our game and changing things up so we don't get predictable. The fact we've got players that can play in those positions and can bring different styles to those positions makes it a real strength for us," she said.

"You have to make sure your strengths don't become your weaknesses and you become too unpredictable with yourselves as well, but certainly we have some really good options in there."

Add a Comment