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NETBALL WORLD CUP
of the New Zealand Herald
Diamonds defender Sharni Layton
is not buying into the talk around the
Silver Ferns shooting end.
New Zealand’s revamped shooting
line-up, which includes 20-year-
old rookie Malia Paseka and relative
newcomer Bailey Mes, has been the
subject of much discussion heading into
tomorrow ’s World Cup opener. The fact
the Ferns will be fielding players who are
largely untested in pressure situations
in the crucial goal shoot position is of
major concern for New Zealand fans,
with both players appearing in their first
major tournament at senior level.
However, Layton, just one of a quartet
of experienced Diamonds defenders, has
dismissed any suggestion the likes of
Mes and Paseka are green at this level.
She said she learned a couple of years
ago not to underestimate Mes.
“I played against Mes for the first time
two or three years ago and to be honest
I didn’t know anything about her when I
came up against her and she kicked my
arse. So ever since then I’ve made sure
I’ve done my homework on her,” Layton
“Malia has played in the ANZ finals,
which is the toughest competition in
the world. She has experience now, so
there’s no point in calling her a rookie.
I think it ’s exciting what (New Zealand)
has brought over to Netball World Cup.
They obviously wanted to change things
up compared to what they had last
year and have gone for a smaller, more
moving circle, which we have not played
for a very long time. So we will have to
be at our best when we meet them. ”
Yet, for all Layton’s efforts to talk up
the Ferns, there is no mistaking the
favourite’s tag is firmly affixed to the
Australians. The Diamonds head into
the Sydney tournament, where they
will be chasing their 11th world title
in 14 championships, on the back of a
19-game winning streak.
Layton knows their key rivals will have
dedicated much of their planning and
preparation to finding areas of Australia’s
gameplan to exploit — a prospect that
does not faze the energetic defender one
“ We love the targets on our backs.
That ’s the only way we really want it to
be. We’ve fought hard to be where we
are. We know what to do to be able to
get there at the end and it ’s not taking
anything for granted.”
Given the recent slide of the Ferns
team, many now view Geva Mentor’s
English side as Australia’s strongest
competition in Sydney. England, who are
calling themselves the “Roses” these days,
blew a golden opportunity to topple the
Diamonds at last year’s Commonwealth
Games in Glasgow, but are determined
this will be the tournament where they
finally shake off their reputation for
faltering on the big stage.
Layton expects the English will be
tough, but said her side can’t afford to
single out any opposition early.
“ We’ve got Jamaicans and the English
girls in the ANZ Championship now
that have had so much more exposure
to a higher level and that ’s helped build
those countries up. You can’t concentrate
on one team at worlds because that ’s
when you’re going to slip. We need to
make sure we’re concentrating on all
Australia will open their campaign
against Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow
Aussies war y
Not much rattles Diamonds captain
Laura Geitz ... except when she is
forced to look up at her opponents.
The star goal keeper has been eyeing
off her Netball World Cup rivals, and
admits to feeling a little taken aback at
the sheer height of some of them.
“Casey (Silver Ferns captain Casey
Kopua) and I were getting photos
of some of the girls before, thinking
‘gosh you guys are tall’,” Geitz said
as the captains of every team came
together before the tournament kicks
Even standing at 1.86m, Geitz
is a solid 12cm shorter than the
tournament ’s tallest player, Jamaica’s
1.98m shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
Her team-mate Romelda Aiken is
not far behind her at 1.96m, while
goal shooter Caitlin Bassett leads the
Australians in the height department as
the competition’s fifth tallest.
“Normally people are saying that
to us, but for us to be going ‘hooley
dooley ’. And I’ve got heels on!
“I’ll have to get my jumping shoes on,”
The world’s upper echelon of netball has
spoken — Australia can be defeated at the
The Diamonds’ $1.25 odds to claim a
Netball World Cup hat-trick in Sydney
are so preposterously low it is hardly
worth having a punt. But all the talk of
Aussie world domination has only further
galvanised world No 2 team New Zealand,
third-ranked England and fourth-ranked
Jamaica to stage an upset.
They all admit the prospect of stopping
the girls in green and gold from extending
their 19-match international winning run
will be a stiff challenge, but one well within
the realms of possibility.
Silver Ferns captain Casey Kopua for one
says her new-look line-up are itching to
get on court this Sunday for another shot
at breaking New Zealand’s nine-game and
nearly two-year losing streak against their
Will they target any specific players?
“All of them,” Kopua said frankly.
“ We can’t just take out one, we need to take
out all 12.
“It’s definitely going to be hard work, but
that ’s what we’re here for and that ’s what we
love to do.”
England skipper Geva Mentor has
cultivated a more individualised approach,
as her experienced team contend with the
new pressure of being perceived as a larger
threat than the less-fancied Ferns.
“For us it’s just about making sure we don’t
let them be as strong as a unit,” the star
“Making sure we can break them down
individually, and we’ve definitely got the
players within our playing group to isolate
players on court.
“If we can do that then we can start to
break it down and slowly get on top.”
Jamaica captain Nicole Aiken-Pinnock
is backing her Sunshine Girls’ physical
prowess, flair and an increase in on-court
discipline thanks to some heavy mentoring
from technical director and former
Diamonds coach Jill McIntosh.
“There are people who believe Jamaica can
create an upset and there are people who
don’t,” the goal keeper said.
“But my team-mates and I believe we’re
more than capable of being champions of
this World Cup.
“The Cup is there for anybody, it just
depends who turns up to play that ’s going to
walk away with that trophy.”
Zambia, Sri Lanka, Samoa, Uganda and
Singapore all have the highest odds to win
the World Cup at $501.
PICTURE: Getty Images
All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder takes a pass watched by Colin Slade at a training session at Trusts Stadium, in Auckland earlier this
of the Herald on Sunday
Anyone who reckons
they can name the 31
players the All Blacks
are going to take to the
World Cup is kidding
They might guess it
by luck but not because
they have been able to
analyse the selections for
the first four tests of the
year and make accurate
The team named this
morning to play Australia
created as much doubt
as it provided certainty.
What is becoming clear
is that there is a stronger
picture forming in the
for wards than there is the
If the World Cup final
were next week, the
selectors would have a
good idea as to who they
would name in the pack.
Tony Woodcock, Dane
Coles and O wen Franks
their preferred starting
Kaino, Richie McCaw
and Kieran Read are
the preferred loose trio.
Brodie Retallick is the
number one lock — but
surprisingly — there
is not yet clarity as to
whom the selectors see as
his preferred partner.
Sam Whitelock again
finds himself on the
bench — the reasons for
which should become
It is possibly because
the selectors need to see
more of Luke Romano,
Jeremy Thrush and James
Broadhurst to determine
which one is not going
to make it to England.
But perhaps it is not
that: perhaps Whitelock
has not impressed in
his outings so far and is
under pressure to hold
his starting place.
It has not been typical
during the Hansen era
to be left in the dark but
the usually unambiguous,
has been reluctant to
give any clues as to his
thinking in regard to
pecking orders and who
may be in jeopardy of
not making the World
Based on performances
so far and the Sydney
selection, Codie Taylor
is firming as the third
hooker. One more good
outing off the bench and
he will be hard to leave
out. But the situation in
the backs is not anywhere
near as obvious.
After making an
impressive debut, Lima
Sopoaga has dropped
out of the 23. Colin
Slade, the golden child
of November last year,
has barely been sighted
and Israel Dagg, having
delivered a mixed bag at
Ellis Park is another to
disappear from the match
day squad this time
The versatility within
the group creates
and leaves anything up to
six players vulnerable to
not making the final cut
when it comes at the end
end of the month.
All four first-fives —
Dan Carter, Sopoaga,
Slade and Beauden
Barrett — could still
make it, which would see
casualties in the midfield
and outside backs.
So realistically Dagg,
Charles Piutau, Cory
Jane, Sopoaga, Slade,
Ryan Crotty and Malakai
Fekitoa and Nehe
vulnerable. As many as
four of them could miss
Hansen has not
dropped so much as a
hint and his selections so
far have reflected only a
desire to give everyone a
chance rather than any
definitive pecking order.
of the Herald on Sunday
Nehe Milner-Skudder, having seemingly
been in danger of becoming the forgotten
man in the extended All Black squad, will
continue his remarkable year by making
his test debut on Saturday.
The last few weeks since the Super
Rugby final have been long and stressful
for the 24-year-old outside back.
Having won his place in the squad on
the back of an electric campaign with
the Hurricanes where his stepping and
elusive running were first class, he saw
George Moala, Waisake Naholo and then
Ben Smith play on the right wing while
he battled a rib injury.
As he fought to recover, a clearer picture
formed about the back three pecking
order and it was increasingly hard to see
when the Hurricanes wing-cum-fullback
would get his chance.
The waiting is over for Milner-Skudder
and he will become the last of the four
uncapped players in the original 41-man
squad to win game time — having earned
a spot on the right wing in a reshuffled
back three that sees Ben Smith revert to
his favoured fullback role and Julian Savea
regain his treasured No 11 jersey.
footwork and vision to the role — which
the selectors have encouraged him to use.
He is also a regular fullback and shown
himself to be brave and accurate under
the high ball.
There is no doubt that with Smith and
Savea World Cup certainties and Charles
Piutau having played superbly in recent
weeks, Milner-Skudder is going to have
to deliver something memorable on debut
if he is to keep himself in the World
Cup frame but he has been tasked by the
coaches with nothing more than playing
his natural game in Sydney.
The midfield — the other area of
congestion — also has a makeover with
Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith
It is a selection that was partly borne
by necessity as Ma’a Nonu has not fully
recovered from a shoulder knock he took
No doubt, too, the selectors want to
develop their options in the midfield and
head to England with a number of tried
The rest of the team appears to have
been selected to combat the physical
onslaught the All Blacks are expecting to
There have been several false dawns in
Australian rugby during the last decade,
but no one within the All Blacks doubts
that the current Wallaby side have a
presence and physical edge that demands
to be taken seriously.
The arrival of abrasive coach Michael
Cheika has given the whole squad much-
needed confidence to impose themselves
and be confrontational across the park.
It could be considered a mark of respect
that the All Blacks have chosen not to
select any fringe players in the starting
While head coach Steve Hansen has
been true to his stated aim of giving all
41 players in the extended squad a chance
to stake a claim for a World Cup place,
the starting pack is, effectively, the first
choice with the possible exception of
Luke Romano being in ahead of Sam
The bench is where Hansen has loaded
those with a point to prove which suggest
he is expecting that it may take some time
— if it happens at all — for the All Blacks
to subdue Australia.
“The Bledisloe Cup is an important
trophy for New Zealand rugby and for
this team Australia are one of our oldest
opponents,” Hansen said.
“ We are well aware that they have
made improvements and that their coach
Michael Cheika wants them to be more
physical and more consistent.
“Having said that, we are always looking
to improve our game and understand that
we will have to take a step up from our
Ellis Park performance.
“That means we will need to bring
physicality, intensity and accuracy to the
occasion. I am picking this to be a brutal
contest and one we are looking forward
“It will be about us implementing
our gameplan and skill sets for 80-plus
All Blacks.— Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-
Skudder, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill
Williams, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter,
Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie
McCaw, captain, Jerome Kaino, Luke
Romano, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks,
Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves:
Codie Taylor, Ben Franks, Nepo Laulala,
Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, T J Perenara,
Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
RUGBY WORLD CUP
PICTURE: Getty Images
Silver Fern Bailey Mes and Diamonds’ Sharni Layton competing for the ball in their encounter last year.
Top teams confident Diamonds beatable
Geitz gets netball
Electric wing set for debut
All Blacks cup
Hooker Nathan Harris
has extended his contract
with the Chiefs for two
Harris, 23, spent most
of this year’s Super
Rugby season on the
sidelines after suffering
an ankle injury during his
All Blacks debut against
the USA in Chicago last
He will return to the
field today for Bay of
Plenty in a pre-season
match against Manawatu
“I have spent the best
part of nine months
rehabilitating so I am
amped and ready to get
stuck in,” he said.
“The Chiefs is a
and they were extremely
supportive last season. It
is a great culture to learn
back on the paddock and
put my best foot for ward
for them.” — NZ Herald
Hooker Harris extends
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