We take a look at the talking points ahead of England’s three-Test series against the world champions New Zealand…
This week, the Vitality Roses and the Silver Ferns will be competing against each other for the first time since January’s Vitality Nations Cup and all three matches are being played at Claudelands Arena in Hamilton.
Due to New Zealand’s situation regarding Covid-19 being very different to other parts of the world, fans will be allowed to watch the matches inside the arena and the Vitality Roses have gone through a strict quarantine process.
With a short time to go before the first Test takes place on Wednesday, we take a look at some of the key talking points…
England’s Vitality Roses vs New Zealand – Live on Sky Sports
|First Test||Wednesday, October 28||Live from 6am on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix|
|Second Test||Friday, October 30||Live from 6am on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix|
|Third Test||Sunday, November 1||Live from 6am on Sky Sports Main Event, Arena and Mix|
Leading from afar
Where else to start than with England’s Vitality Roses head coach Jess Thirlby having to lead her side from over 10,000 miles away…
After following as many precautions as possible ahead of the tour, and not having had any symptoms, Thirlby was “shocked” by her positive test result for Covid-19.
Since then, she has isolated at home and remained asymptomatic while diligently working through the unusual process of figuring out how to be as effective as possible for her team.
Thirlby has used technology to maintain a strong personal presence with them, by watching training live and speaking to coaches Kat Ratnapala and Colette Thomson regularly.
“I’m in contact with them every day; myself, Kat and Colette had spoken a lot [in our camps] about my plans and vision for the tour,” Thirlby told Sky Sports News.
“We talked about ways in which we would have prepared them for the Test matches once we got to New Zealand, so we were really aligned on that.”
She said: “I genuinely believe that down the line, this presents a huge opportunity which actually might strengthen this team in the months and years to come, as we head towards Birmingham and the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“We didn’t ask for it, but I think that there will be a lot of good that comes out of it.”
New Zealand’s strength
At the Vitality Nations Cup in January, New Zealand secured a clean-sweep of victories and their work highlighted their considerable strength in depth.
The Silver Ferns had arrived in England without the likes of Maria Folau, Casey Kopua and Laura Langman and their less-experienced players made international netball look effortless.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio’s first competition at the helm as captain boosted her performances on court and fellow shooter Maia Wilson came of age in her Silver Ferns dress.
“Individuals like Kimiora Poi, Whitney Souness and Maia Wilson stepped up and delivered,” Tamsin Greenway said back in January. “Although they have had some exposure to international netball before, they all looked a step above some similar players from other nations.”
After a solid ANZ Premiership season, there is no reason to think the individuals selected by Dame Noeline Taurua will play any differently this time around.
Keep an eye on Silver Ferns’ shooters
New Zealand’s shooters have always kept us enthralled with their work in the circle and this series should be no different.
Shooter Monica Falkner is the only uncapped player who has been named in Taurua’s squad to face the Roses, and Grace Nweke will be a training partner.
Falkner’s inclusion comes after she spent 15 months out of the game due to a ruptured ACL, and Nweke’s development is being managed carefully.
“Monica has shown her desire to be here and wear the black dress,” Taurua said. “We’ve been really pleased with what she has put out on court and what she brings to our shooting circle.
“We’ve been working a lot with Grace, she is such a sponge in our environment and learning our structures,” the head coach added.
“She has really embraced being in the Silver Ferns environment. Now it’s about ensuring that she is well supported moving forward and so that she can consolidate her core fundamentals of her role.”
With elite netball having been paused since March in England, the Vitality Roses have headed out to New Zealand chomping at the bit to get out on court and play.
None of the Roses or their coaching team, are shying away from the fact they do not have the same amount of competitive match play in their pockets as New Zealand, but their attitude remains extremely positive about the challenge ahead.
“We’re building and we’re focused on what we’re going to get out of this tour,” Jodie Gibson said.