Aotearoa Men goal attack Ben Smith grabs the ball from Silver Ferns goal defence Karin Burger.
OPINION: It’s massively unlikely Dame Noeline Taurua didn’t already know what she witnessed from the Silver Ferns in their series against Aotearoa Men.
However, she may have been hoping for some pleasant surprises which never materialised in a 2-1 series victory which finished on a low note in a defeat in Wellington on Tuesday night.
A late charge gave the final scoreline more respectability than the New Zealand performance deserved against an invitation team which was well below full strength after six players were unable to get travel exemptions.
The New Zealand women’s team was also far from the first-choice unit that will likely take the court at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
* Silver Ferns pip Aotearoa Men to clinch series win in Wellington
* Mental improvements required for Silver Ferns, says coach Dame Noeline Taurua
* Silver Ferns defender Karin Burger out to end season on a high against the men
* Grace Nweke stands tall as Silver Ferns beat Aotearoa Men in series-opener
But there’s no guarantee Taurua will get all of her experienced stars back in 2022; so she would have wanted better from a number of players who failed to take their opportunities to stamp a mark in the capital.
“I know what I’ve got and what I haven’t,” Taurua adroitly told Sky Tv following the series finale in which Aotearoa Men dictated terms for most of the 60 minutes.
Not even a perfect shooting display from Jay Geldard could stop NZ from claiming an unbeatable 2-0 series lead.
Goal shoot Maia Wilson had another troublesome night, admittedly up against a formidable defensive presence in Victor Godsmark-White, shooting 20/27 on Tuesday. It capped an uncertain shooting season for Wilson, who struggled at times in the Premiership and netted at a measly rate of 69 per cent in the just-completed series.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit was a peripheral figure but Tiana Metuarau and Grace Nweke continued their growth and are set for lengthy international careers – yet it’s difficult to see that young duo as a Games-winning combination just yet.
So plenty may hinge on the possible return of former captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio, currently expecting her second child.
The NZ midcourt, missing Sam Winders for all three games with a lower back strain, looks competent but may need to find a spark to overcome hosts England and Australia in next year’s major tournament.
There’s likely to be fewer sleepless nights over the defensive end for Taurua. Kelly Jury and Karin Burger took on a huge workload and the imposing figure and pinpoint shooting of Jay Geldard creditably, minus the support of the injured vice-captain duo of Sulu Fitzpatrick and Jane Watson, with ex-skipper Katrina Rore another potential returnee for Birmingham.
It would have been easier to gauge the Ferns had the original series against the Australian Diamonds – another side in a state of flux – not been cancelled, but with little to nil international play looming before the Games, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding what the Silver Ferns are capable of next year.