The FAST5 Ferns have made a strong start to the World Series in Melbourne, racking up a 32-19 win over defending champions England in their first match of the abbreviated and up-tempo version of netball.
Scores were level at 8-8 after the first quarter, but a lethal performance from Bailey Mes in New Zealand’s power play second quarter set them up to dominate England.
The Ferns won the quarter 14-2, then restricted England to just six points in their power play spell to take a 10-point lead into the final quarter.
Mes, Amelieranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn all impressed from the two-point line, firing from every angle in the goal circle.
“Our shooters were playing really smart, and our workhorses in the middle played really well so that definitely helped us in the end,” captain Sulu Fitzpatrick said.
The New Zealanders had to battle harder in their second match before edging to a 39-36 win over South Africa, Mes again featuring with some deadly long-range shooting in sinking six out of eight two-pointers
The Fast5 team is coached by Silver Ferns assistant coach Deb Fuller, with New Zealand head coach Noeline Taurua looking for a strong performance as she ponders her team for new year’s Quad Series and ultimately the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
Fuller believes that while the Fast5 version differs from traditional seven-aside netball, the trademarks of the game can only strengthen the Silver Ferns.
“The only difference is the modification of the game so everything we do in Silver Ferns is continued in this programme,” she said.
“It’s the same skills as the Silver Ferns, we want to see the explosive game we want to see the skills being nailed under pressure and we want them to connect early.”
The FAST5 Ferns are littered with players licking their wounds after recent Silver Ferns omissions despite standout performances in 2018.
Rookie Kimiora Poi will want to contest the midcourt after a break out domestic season while former Silver Ferns Mes, Monica Falkner, Claire Kersten and Whitney Souness are all fighting to get back to the top tier.
Of the 10 FAST5 Ferns named to play this weekend only two featured in the recent trans-Tasman Constellation Cup – defender Fitzpatrick and shooter Dunn.
New Zealand has made a strong impression in the shortened form of the game over the years having won the title six times since the tournament’s inception in 2009.