Poor Jamaican series a worry for Silver Ferns ahead of World Cup

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Analysis – If the Silver Ferns meet Jamaica at next year’s World Cup, it will barely resemble the team they beat this week and that’s a worry if it comes down to a knockout game.

The series saw the return of Ameliaranne Ekenasio.
Photo: Photosport NZ / Andrew Cornaga

You wouldn’t know it based on the results this week but Jamaica will be gunning for gold in Cape Town.

The Silver Ferns won the Taini Jamison trophy last night after beating Jamaica 75-35 in Auckland, a day after a 25-goal win over the visitors.

It’s hard to believe Jamaica thrashed the Silver Ferns 67-51 at the Commonwealth Games six weeks ago, where the Sunshine Girls won silver, and New Zealand bronze.

The biggest body blow came when only three players from that side in Birmingham were named in the series against the Silver Ferns.

Star players Jhaniele Fowler and Shamera Sterling weren’t available due to university commitments, while other players were nursing injuries.

Visa issues at Jamaica’s end also meant they didn’t have genuine options on their bench so the Jamaican starters ran out of steam.

Netball New Zealand must have been tearing their hair out as the series had to be cut from three tests to two.

It hurt Netball New Zealand financially, but it’s the Silver Ferns who could suffer the most.

Silver Ferns’ coach Dame Noeline Taurua would have been desperate for her players to get court time against Jamaica’s best.

Fowler scored 54 goals at 100 percent in the 67-51 semi-final win over the Silver Ferns in Birmingham, while Sterling was a constant menace in defence.

New Zealand's Mila Reuelu-Buchanan.
New Zealand Silver Ferns v Jamaica, Taini Jamison Trophy netball series. Pullman Arena, Auckland, New Zealand. Thursday 22 September 2022. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Mila Reuelu-Buchanan got a chance to impress during the series.
Photo: Photosport NZ / Andrew Cornaga

Between now and July’s Netball World Cup, the Silver Ferns are unlikely to meet Jamaica again in a meaningful way.

A Jamaican side will return to New Zealand for the Fast5 Series in November but most top international players get rested for the shortened version of the game.

At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham the Australian Diamonds had the benefit of meeting Jamaica in pool play.

The Sunshine Girls surprised many by beating them in that first encounter but the Diamonds were better for it.

It would have been a lot tougher for the Diamonds to beat Jamaica in the gold medal match, had they not played them three days earlier.

It can take time to re-calibrate against the Caribbean style and if you’ve only got one chance in a knockout game and you don’t nail it, it’s all over.

The Diamonds players also have the benefit of playing against half a dozen of Jamaica’s best players on a regular basis through the Australian domestic league so they are more familiar with them than we are.

Silver Ferns’ goal shoot Grace Nweke has only had half a game against sensational goal keep Shamera Sterling.

New Zealand's Maia Wilson and  Jamiaca's  Shamera Sterling.
Netball Semi Final. Jamaica v New Zealand Silver Ferns. Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Saturday 6 August 2022. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Maia Wilson and Jamiaca’s Shamera Sterling at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

If defender Elle Temu, who debuted in the Taini Jamison series, is named in next year’s World Cup team, she will go in with no experience against Fowler and wily goal attack Shanice Beckford.

This setback is not something that Dame Noeline can’t overcome but it makes her job that much harder.

Before this week’s series Jamaica had won four of the last six encounters against the Silver Ferns so our ability to play Jamaica regularly is becoming just as important as playing Australia.

In future Netball New Zealand might need to look at playing a series in Jamaica, to give the Silver Ferns a better chance of meeting a stronger Jamaican side.

Many of the Sunshine Girls have to work full time so taking time off work to go on overseas tours is harder for them than it is for Silver Ferns’ players, who get paid.

While it was hard to gauge how much progress the Silver Ferns had made since Birmingham, it’s clear the return of Ameliaranne Ekenasio is huge for the side.

The Ekenasio-Nweke shooting combination has the potential to be as good as any going on the world stage.

Both players put in MVP performances and Ekenasio’s calming influence and ability to shoulder the shooting load will be a great support to Nweke.

The series hasn’t been the preparation New Zealand was looking for before next month’s Constellation Cup, but at least they’ll meet a full strength Australia when they get here.

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