22 Oct 2015

Constellation Cup, a time to say good-bye?

11:40 am on 22 October 2015

OPINION: The Constellation Cup series might feel anti-climactic, but it will be an important litmus test for the Silver Ferns before they rule a line under another year.

The series with arch-rivals Australia will also be a time for goodbyes.

Leana de Bruin and Maria Tutaia after 2015 World Cup final defeat.

Leana de Bruin and Maria Tutaia after 2015 World Cup final defeat. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Longtime players Leana de Bruin and Jodi Brown have as good as said that this will be their last time in the black dress.

And it would not be a big surprise if captain Casey Kopua pulled the pin on her international career at the end of the four Tests.

She has done well to come this far during a career often featuring injury. Though the Ferns would sorely miss her, one gets the feeling her collaboration with coach Wai Taumaunu had been a stimulating one.

With that coming to an end, the 30-year-old might find it hard to find the motivation required to spearhead the team under a new coaching regime.

Taumaunu isn't one for sentimentality and she will be determined that the gains made at the Netball World Cup, when New Zealand upstaged Australia in pool play, won't be lost.

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu Photo: PHOTOSPORT

After a nine-game losing streak, the Ferns took the Diamonds by surprise in August with a new-look attacking end.

They weren't able to repeat the feat in the final, losing by three goals, but it was an important step forward.

Goal Shoot Bailey Mes will be better prepared for the battlefield after regular court time in Sydney, including a stellar 60 minute performance against Australian captain Laura Geitz in their first match-up.

Mes won't have quite the same surprise factor, and the Australians are quick studies, so it will be pivotal that she copes with whatever comes at her on court.

Mes will also have to put up a greater volume of shots, with Maria Tutaia, who took on a huge workload in Sydney, taking time out from the game.

That has made way for Ameliaranne Wells, the only change to the World Cup team.

It would be nice to see the powerful Malia Paseka also get tested in the shooting circle and Kayla Cullen - who stamped her mark in the midcourt - carry on where she left off.

What is important is that the Silver Ferns hold their nerve when it comes to playing the expansive open attacking game that worked so well for them.

It would be easy to revert to a short, tight game when the pressure goes on, as it inevitably will, but to find the confidence to let the ball go in those moments should put them in good stead.

Given this could potentially be de Bruin and Kopua's last hurrah, we need to see Phoenix Karaka and Katrina Grant assert themselves in the defensive end when they get the opportunity to do so.

While it might be easy to brush off the Constellation Cup as an afterthought at the end of a long season, these games are where the up and coming players learn a lot.

Players like Mes, Cullen, and Karaka might be the ones we hang our hopes on when the next pinnacle event comes around in three years' time.

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