Silver Ferns look to dominate
BUILDING a strong lead and then maintaining it will be the focus of the Silver Ferns against Australia in Adelaide tonight as they look to wrap up the Constellation Cup series.
It sounds like a simple enough game plan, but it has proved anything but for New Zealand in their past couple of hit-outs against the Diamonds.
The Ferns established a 2-1 lead in the series with a 49-48 win in Perth on Sunday, but it could just as easily have gone the other way after New Zealand let an 11-goal lead five minutes into the third quarter disappear in the space of 15 cringe-worthy minutes of netball.
The Ferns' second half meltdown had a foreboding sense of deja vu about it after their previous meeting with Australia at the world championships in which Norma Plummer's side fought their way back from a sizeable halftime deficit to claim a one-goal win in overtime.
Australia launched a similar late assault in last year's Commonwealth Games final, taking the Ferns to overtime after the New Zealand side blew a seven-goal fourth quarter lead.
While on that occasion the result masked the Ferns' final quarter capitulation, it did not escape the attention of coach Waimarama Taumaunu, who admits she has concerns over her side's ability to defend a lead. She said the Ferns have a tendency to become fearful and hesistant when the momentum swings back in favour of the opposition.
"Instead of playing the type of netball that got us into the lead in the first place, we become fearful," said Taumaunu.
"That would be my assessment of Delhi and Singapore, and I think that over the next year or so that is one of the big learnings that have to be made."
Taumaunu, who is in her first series in charge of the Ferns, said on Sunday her side were guilty of mistaking playing a safe brand of netball for playing a static brand of netball.
She believes the team need to learn how to take a controlled approach, without losing their speed and movement.
"Finding the fine line between being safe and retaining our creativity and not letting that turn into a fearful approach is one of the things we are going to have to work on, because that is what will win us games."
Silver Ferns defender Anna Scarlett said after putting themselves under extreme pressure in Sunday's opening test, they wanted to build on what they had learned and claim rare back-to-back wins against Australia.
Since September 2009, the wins have alternated between each side every game. That would make it Australia's "turn" to take the spoils tonight, but Scarlett does not see it that way.
She said the team were determined to claim the series tonight, effectively making Sunday's final test in Melbourne a dead rubber.
"We won't be going in thinking we've got one game up our sleeve to lose," she said.
"That's something we've talked about as a group and wanting to become the best. The best teams win consistently, so we'll be looking to be putting it away."